Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Got a Bum Knee? A Fix in Sight as St. Luke’s Resumes Elective Procedures
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The drive-by COVID-19 testing tents will be taken down at the end of the day today.
 
Friday, May 22, 2020
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

Ken Luplow had it planned perfectly.

He would ski the bulk of the downhill ski season at Sun Valley Resort, then get his ailing hip replaced in mid-March. With six to eight weeks of recovery, he hoped to be back on the hiking trails by May.

He was all set to go, having taken several tests to ensure he was a candidate for surgery. The only thing left to do was to take two disinfectant showers the evening before and the morning of his surgery.

Then he got the phone call. There would be no hip replacement as scheduled. His would be among the first elective surgeries cancelled as St. Luke’s Wood River suspended non-emergent surgeries to focus on on the coronavirus that was ravaging the Wood River Valley.

Luplow hunkered down, following COVID-19 protocols to keep healthy. The pain worsened, making it impossible for him to join his wife Patty cross-country skiing. And, by the time the snow had melted, he could walk only a couple miles on a flat surface--hills and stairs were “killers.”

A couple days ago, he got the call he’s been waiting for: Would you be interested on getting a new hip on June 8?

“As you can imagine, it took less than a nano second to respond,” he said.

Dozens upon dozens of Sun Valley-area who had been scheduled to have hip and knee replacements in March, April and May are rejoicing this week after officials at St. Luke’s Wood River announced that they will resume elective surgeries next week.

But, officials added, the hospital is prepared to shut down non-urgent services on a dime’s notice if there’s another surge in COVID-19 patients.

But they’re being cautiously optimistic. Hospital officials will take down the screening and specimen collection tents that went up on March 17 at 4 p.m. today, shifting this care to its Hailey clinic.

Beginning Tuesday, May 26, patients with COVID-19 symptoms will be directed to St. Luke’s Family Medicine Clinic in Hailey for screening and specimen collection from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Waves of COVID-19 are likely for weeks and months to come, hospital officials say. Officials will continue to monitor the community’s testing needs and be prepared to open additional screening and specimen collection locations, if needed.

From Oct. 2018 to October 2019 St. Luke’s Wood River performed 1,700 surgeries or about six surgeries per week day. That means as many as 270 surgeries could have been postponed between March 20, when the hospital suspended normal operations and when it resumes elective surgeries on Tuesday.

The hospital started doing emergent surgeries on a case-by-case basis a couple weeks ago.

St. Luke’s in Boise postponed about 2,000 elective surgeries during the past eight weeks. At its peak it was performing up to 70 non-emergency surgeries a day. It is resuming with 50 surgeries a day and hopes to return to normal service levels in early June.

How fast both St. Luke’s Wood River and St. Luke’s Boise resume normal operations depends on several things, including making sure there’s adequate personal protective equipment and work force should a surge in COVID-19 cases occurs. And, of course, making sure there are enough medical, surgical and intensive care unit beds.

St. Luke’s will continue to offer alternative options, such as telehealth or video visits.

Sun Valley resident Beth Willis Is among those who is eager for elective surgeries to resume. She scheduled a hip replacement for April 22 in January. And, while she is still hiking the short loop in Greenhorn Gulch, her pain is getting increasingly worse.

“I will be thrilled to get a call letting me know when they might be able to take me. I know I’m not the only person out there but I just want some communication,” she said. “My husband’s anxious—he needs to plan his life around mine because he’ll need to take care of me and drive me places. And I’m worried that I’m limping, which is putting my whole body out of alignment. I’m definitely getting increasingly de-conditioned.”

Priority will be given to those whose health is most at risk in the next three to eight weeks for those needing surgery, medical imaging and mammography. Priority will also be given for patients with procedures that were scheduled in March, April or May.

New appointments for non-urgent and routine tests can be scheduled starting June 1.

Those undergoing surgery will be tested for COVID-19 one or two days before surgery. They and other patients will be required to wear a mask while visiting St. Luke’s. Waiting spaces will be significantly  reduced with fewer chairs. And spacing between patient appointments will be adjusted to limit waiting and the number of patients in care areas. The additional spacing will also provide more time for cleaning.

Patients will be asked to call upon arrival and will be escorted directly to exam rooms. Electronic check-in will be available in some locations to minimize wait times and allow staff to complete patient registration in exam rooms. Hours will be extended in some settings.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE COVID-19

If you think you have symptoms of COVID-19 or may have been exposed, use St. Luke’s myChart self-triage to determine what to do next.

If you don’t have a myChart account, create one by at www.mychart.slhs.org/mychart/signup.

If self-triage indicates you should be tested, schedule an appointment via myChart for your sample collection at St. Luke’s Family Medicine Clinic in Hailey at 1450 Aviation Drive.

Stay in your car outside the clinic. Staff will meet you to complete screening and specimen collection.

If you need to visit the emergency department to treat severe symptoms, call ahead and ask for a protective facemask when you arrive.

Questions? Call the COVID-19 hotline at 208-381-9500.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND AND GOING FORWARD

On Saturday, May 23, the car clinic and walk-in clinic located outside the Physician Office Annex outside St. Luke’s Wood River will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. All clinics will be closed Sunday and Monday, May 24 and 25.

Same-day appointments for non-COVID illnesses and injuries are available at St. Luke’s Family Medicine between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays. Call 208-788-3434 to schedule an appointment.

Starting May 30, a walk-in clinic will be open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays at the Physician Office Annex at 100 Hospital Drive, Suite 109 in Ketchum.

 

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