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Washington Hospitals Ready To Get Back To Non-Essential Procedures

Newport Hospital and Health Services

Beginning today [Monday] hospitals in Washington can go back to doing non-essential procedures not related to Covid-19. They include joint replacements, most eye surgeries and procedures such as colonoscopies.

A doctor at one hospital in northeastern Washington says he's ready to get back to normal.

In March, when Washington’s governor ordered health care providers to limit non-essential services, business at Newport Hospital and Health Services slowed significantly, says family physician Geoff Jones.

“We pushed out anything we thought could potentially wait three-to-four months and not be harmful to the patient. Part of that was patients were really frightened to go anywhere and come in," Jones said.

As at most hospitals, that put quite a strain on the facility’s financial situation. But with Monday’s reopening, the schedule is refilling with appointments.

Jones says the time away has led to changes in the way he practices, changes he thinks will be permanent. For one thing, he’s now, for the first time, seeing patients via video.

“I was even trying to roll out telehealth for probably the last six-to-12 months. I just felt that it had some advantages in rural areas, but there was a resistance to implementation on the technology side, on the patient side and that resistance has gone away," he said.

Jones says he has seen patients with coronavirus symptoms, but Pend Oreille County has had only two confirmed cases and has now moved to phase two of the state’s Safe Start protocol.

Jones is the assistant clinical dean for the University of Washington School of Medicine in eastern Washington. He credits the hospital’s relationship with the medical school for helping Newport prepare for the pandemic.

“As we saw them struggle, we said we better be on this now rather than waiting until it gets here. I think that was the same in Grand Coulee and many of our other training sites," he said.

Jones says his hospital has the testing materials and personal protective equipment it needs in case it sees a rush of new cases.