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Hospitals, Dental Offices Planning For 'New Normal' Post-COVID Crisis

KMUW File photo

Wichita hospitals and dental offices are making plans to end their coronavirus pause and begin a return to full operations.

Wesley Healthcare CEO William Voloch says elective surgeries and imaging will resume Monday on a limited basis.

"We’re not going to go full-scale," he says. "We are not going to be doing everything that we were doing, but this is a way for us to start."

He says the hospital group has enough capacity and ventilator supply to serve a greater number of patients. Wesley also plans to reevaluate its restricted visitation policy.

Ascension Via Christi officials say they are developing a plan and timeline for their hospitals to gradually increase treatment and care once the county and state stay-at-home orders have been lifted.

Both hospital groups set up special units early on for patients with COVID-19 to help contain virus spread. Voloch says keeping COVID patients separate from the rest of the hospital population helped keep staff safe too.

"Not one single clinician, not a nurse, not a respiratory therapist, a housekeeper or physician contracted COVID at Wesley from exposure to a COVID patient," he says. "That means walking down the hallways, walking in the units is very safe."

Voloch says that’s an important message to get out because many people are intentionally delaying care out of concern they'll contract COVID-19. He says it's a consequence the hospital didn’t anticipate.

“We have patients sitting at home for 3, 4, 5 days with chest pain and end up having heart attacks because they didn’t want to come to the hospital,” Voloch says. “We have had significant issues with delay of care.”

The Kansas Dental Association (KDA) is urging Gov. Laura Kelly to lift restrictions on elective dental treatment and procedures when she releases her next statewide plan, expected later this week.

The group, representing 1,200 dentists statewide, sent a letter to the governor, state health officials and legislative leaders on Monday, saying dentists are prepared to re-open next week under strict infection control guidelines and office protocols.

Read the KDA's letter to state officials

Last month, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's Bureau of Oral Health “strongly recommended” Kansas’ dentists delay all non-essential procedures and surgeries to preserve personal protective equipment. That essentially shut down dental offices. The KDA says some dentists have continued to provide emergency dental surgery to keep their patients out of hospital emergency rooms.

The KDA says the state’s guidance has had a devastating impact on Kansas’s dental practices, and a detrimental impact on the oral health of Kansans.

Follow Deborah Shaar on Twitter @deborahshaar. To contact KMUW News or to send in a news tip, reach us at news@kmuw.org.

Deborah joined the news team at KMUW in September 2014 as a news reporter. She spent more than a dozen years working in news at both public and commercial radio and television stations in Ohio, West Virginia and Detroit, Michigan. Before relocating to Wichita in 2013, Deborah taught news and broadcasting classes at Tarrant County College in the Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas area.