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Moses Lake Outpatient Hand Surgery

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  • Written By: Confluence Health
Moses Lake Outpatient Hand Surgery

Necessity is the mother of invention and oftentimes the difficulties of the pandemic gave rise to creative solutions.

In addition to the more readily apparent challenges of COVID-19, staffing shortages and procedure backlogs made it difficult for patients to have access to needed, but non-life-threatening, surgeries.

For Dr. Matthew Kai Elliott and Wendy Weston, this wasn’t something they were willing to accept.

“I was motivated to do office-based hand procedures because we were only able to do half the procedures we were previously doing because of a staffing shortage,” commented Dr. Elliott, an orthopedic surgeon with Confluence Health. “In addition to helping these patients get access faster, this would also allow time in the operating room to be reallocated.”

Rather than having patients undergo general anesthesia, these procedures would be done in an office-like setting with local anesthesia where patients are awake. This uses fewer staff and patients can skip pre-operative testing, don’t have to fast, and could drive themselves home afterwards. All in all, procedures could be done in as little as an hour.

“Additionally, this leads to significant cost-savings for the patient and the healthcare system,” continued Dr. Elliott. “I could perform the surgery exactly as I was previously in the hospital, resulting in the same great outcomes with no additional risks.”

That is not to say that this creative solution did not have challenges.

“Initially, we didn’t have a procedure room, but eventually we were able to share some space,” explained Wendy Weston, practice manager for general surgeons at Confluence Health. “Staff trained with the team in Wenatchee. We worked to get our space set up, meet the licensing requirements, and collaborate with our health and safety teams. We were lucky in that we have an RN – Tristan Leeder – who has operating room experience. With the supply chain issues during the pandemic, however, ordering instruments took several months to get some items.”

Despite the hurdles, the group persisted, and in March 2022 the first patient had their surgery performed in a procedure room. Since then, Dr. Elliott and his team have performed nearly 40 of these operations.

“One happy additional benefit is that, since patients are awake, the staff get to talk with the patients while they have their procedure, which the staff really enjoy,” reflected Weston.

“Looking back, the most important take-away for myself was, even in trying times such as the challenges of the COVID pandemic, my drive as a physician is to provide care for my patients and to be able to provide procedures that help with their pain and dysfunction,” concluded Dr. Elliott. “And really, that’s what we’re here for.”