Elective surgeries resume at island hospitals after restriction lifted
By John McPhaul
Some 23 hospitals in Puerto Rico began to perform elective surgeries Wednesday afternoon, after Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia announced a day earlier that he was lifting the restriction on such procedures at the island’s medical institutions.
“As soon as the governor made the announcement yesterday, we made a survey and 23 of the 60 hospitals said that today in the afternoon elective surgeries will begin in the hospitals around the island,” said Caleb Colón, president of the Health Services Administrators Association.
Pierluisi announced that the previous COVID-19 executive order 2021-065 would expire today, so the mandate to close establishments and the impose the Dry Law from 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. was to expire at midnight Wednesday. However, as a precautionary and preventive measure, all the provisions related to vaccination, capacity limitation and use of a mask will be maintained.
A new executive order will not be issued, since the restrictions that remain in force are part of other executive orders or administrative orders of the Department of Health.
“As a people, our achievement is that vaccination and the measures that have been implemented produced results,” the governor said in a written statement. “Puerto Rico remains the jurisdiction with the most vaccinated people in the United States with 90 percent of people eligible to be vaccinated with one dose and 80 percent with two doses. Meanwhile, 70 percent of the entire population of the island is already vaccinated. This is a great collective achievement. Likewise, the positivity rate has dropped to less than 3% and hospitalizations, as well as deaths, have also decreased. Although we are doing very well, we still cannot lower our guard and we have to continue to protect ourselves. At this time I have decided not to make major changes and to maintain certain restrictions to safeguard the health and safety of all.”
Capacity restrictions in commercial establishments will remain in force at 50% in commercial establishments that do not require evidence of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test, such as restaurants, bars, cinemas, arenas, theaters, activity centers, gyms, lounges, and beauty and barber shops, among others included in executive orders 2021-063 and 2021-064. This does not include supermarkets and grocery stores.
The previously announced vaccination decrees will also continue in effect; as well as the use of masks indoors and outdoors when physical distancing cannot be guaranteed.
Similarly, the obligatory use of N-95 masks by professionals in the health sector remains. That mask requirement will now be part of the Department of Health administrative order.
Pierluisi said that he will keep an eye on the statistics and that he does not rule out making changes if necessary.
“We must all continue with the proper precautionary measures and not lower our guard,” the governor said. “The vaccine works and saves lives; that is why I urge those who have not been vaccinated and can do so, to do so. I will continue to be attentive to the different statistics and recommendations from health professionals and the economic sector to make changes if necessary.”
“Now the patients will be given continuity with regard to their clinical conditions and in the same way, the impact that these [surgery] cancellations had on the fiscal health of the hospital institutions that have been affected so much in this pandemic is mitigated,” he added.
Elective surgery refers to a surgical procedure that is not an emergency. When a patient requires elective surgery, it is the medical specialist who will determine its clinical categorization according to an evaluation.