Stanford resumes non-emergency surgeries amid low positive COVID-19 employee cases

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- A major Bay Area health care system is reopening and rescheduling thousands of canceled appointments.

Thanks to mass testing, Stanford Medical Center was able to start non-emergency surgery Monday, providing relieve to patients in pain.

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"it is right where the stomach connects to the esophagus," said San Jose resident, Anwar Soliman, pointing to the middle of his chest.

After 5 years of chronic pain...

"There's intense pressure, I'm getting spasms in my back, I'm getting regurgitation."

Soliman was booked for hernia surgery on April 1st... only to have it cancelled, along with all other non-emergency procedures across California's health care system. Hospitals had to focus all their resources on the coronavirus surge.

But the surge never came, so last week, Soliman got a call to reschedule.

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"I was jumping for joy, I really was. Even just to sit here and laugh and talk to you, there's a lot of pain. I am in tremendous pain all day."

On Wednesday, Dr. Mary Hawn, chair of Stanford's surgery department, will operate on Soliman.

"I really looking forward to getting back into taking care of my patients, to being back together with my team in the operating room and doing what we do best," said Hawn.

This week Stanford Medical Center has more than 800 procedures on the schedule, which is about 60% of the system's capacity.

Dr. Hawn hopes Stanford will be back to 100% by June, which would mean about 1,350 weekly procedures.

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"Stanford hospital is an incredibly safe place to come in and get surgical care right now," said said.

And by safe, Dr. Hawn means largely free of COVID.

CEO of Stanford Health Care, David Entwistle, explained why testing almost 80% of their employees allowed the medical center to reopen for elective procedures.

"What we've found from the 11,000 of our employees who we've tested, we've had .3% that actually have shown positive with COVID... At the same time we did the serology testing and less than 3% actually have the antibodies.... It really creates a safe environment for us to be able to say to the public... that this is safe."

If you do the math, that's just 33 employees who tested positive for COVID, and 330 employees who have antibodies, which means they had the virus in the past.

Another element that has allowed Stanford to resume more surgeries, is their strong PPE supply. Entwistle says because of direct sourcing pre-pandemic in addition to several large donations, their hospitals have plenty of masks and supplies to keep their employees safe.

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