FLORIDA (CW44 News At 10) – Some Tampa Bay region hospitals are choosing to resume stricter visitation rules amid the large spike in COVID-19 cases. One hospital group that we spoke to is HCA Healthcare Centers across the state of Florida, which have begun delaying certain in-patient surgeries and procedures in an attempt to increase bed capacity.

Tampa Bay-based surgeon, Dr. Larry Feinman, D.O. says his routine of entering and exiting the operating room has seen many changes since the beginning of COVID-19. “Well, we are certainly, unfortunately in a worse place than we were three months ago. The state was closed down, only essential workers were allowed to work and we really did flatten the curve. Now that everything has been liberalized, people are back to work, people are back to social activities, unquestionably, we’ve seen almost an exponential rise in the number of [COVID-19] positive patients.”

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In 25 years of practice and another 8 of training in operating rooms, the most impactful changes during these last few months could be that of patient’s families. Dr. Feinman related, “Early on, we did stop visitation in our hospitals. Unquestionably, that was painful to our patients and their families. We recognized that. But what we did was for the benefit of them.” Once the curve flattened, the benefits were apparent. “We decided to change that [procedure] and allow limited visiting back into the hospitals. But now we are in a huge growth phase of [COVID-19] in our area.”

For this reason, HCA Healthcare recently made the decision to once again curtail visiting hours. Dr. Feinman continues, in the interest of preserving bed capacity, “[We’ve started with] our hospitals in Pinellas County, we’ve expanded that now to our North market which includes Pasco, Hernando and Citrus Counties and our Hillsborough market. All of the hospitals in our community, especially the Pinellas market are approaching their capacity.”

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Dr. Feinman insists with a few changes, this can be a temporary measure. “This pandemic doesn’t have to be as bad as it is. If we respect each other, we wear masks, we socially distance, we acknowledge when we don’t feel good. I never once passed out because I was wearing a mask. The mask allows oxygen to come in and allows carbon dioxide to go out, so there’s no ill effects of wearing a mask. All it does is protect everybody around you. Just wear the mask and don’t argue about it.”

The recent change does not affect hospital-based outpatient surgeries or procedures. All affected patients will be contacted by their surgeon.

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