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Elective surgeries resume within the San Antonio Military Health System

Two surgeons in an operating room Surgeons perform a procedure at Brooke Army Medical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. U.S. Army photo

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With safety at the forefront, elective surgeries are set to resume at the end of August across the San Antonio Military Health System.

“We have a military population whose non-urgent procedures were delayed in some cases for safety purposes and in order to preserve resources and capacity,” said Army Brig. Gen. Shan Bagby, commanding general for the Brooke Army Medical Center aboard Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. “We are eager to resume these important medical services.”

SAMHS had resumed ambulatory elective surgeries at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center earlier this month, already doubling the number of procedures performed in July. Meanwhile, BAMC has focused on providing urgent and emergent inpatient surgical care. Next week, BAMC will increase surgical capacity by 50% for more complex elective surgeries, said Air Force Col. Patrick Osborn, San Antonio Military Health System surgeon-in-chief.

Patients whose procedures were delayed will be contacted by their surgical team or clinic, and new cases will be scheduled based on patient acuity and available capacity, said Osborn, adding that evaluation of patients’ surgical needs has been ongoing, often through virtual technology.

“Elective procedures are an important aspect of a person’s overall health care and, while they may not be urgent in nature, they should not be put off indefinitely,” Osborn said. “After careful assessment, we are confident in our ability to resume these procedures safely.”

SAMHS will monitor the pandemic situation daily and expand or scale back procedures as needed, said Air Force Maj. Gen. John DeGoes, SAMHS market manager and commander, 59th Medical Wing.

“Our highest priority is safeguarding the health and wellness of our patients and staff,” DeGoes said. “We will continue CDC-recommended safety precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most valuable asset – our people.”

SAMHS had paused elective procedures July 1 due to the surge in COVID-19 and in line with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order. The intent was for hospitals to reserve capacity for COVID-19 patients from the community.

Despite a resumption of elective surgical services, everyone should continue to social distance, wear a face covering, and wash hands thoroughly and often, Osborn said.

“We all have a continuing role in stopping the spread of this virus,” he said.

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