Live Mic: Doctor shares the impact of postponing elective surgeries

Apr 21, 2020, 4:44 PM | Updated: Apr 22, 2020, 10:37 am
13 people test positive for COVID-19 at the Midvale Family Resource Center hospitalizations utah re...
FILE - In this April 2, 2020, file photo a nurse holds a vial and a swab at a drive-up coronavirus testing station at a hospital in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

SALT LAKE CITY — Elective surgeries have been postponed for the past month in an effort to free up hospital beds and equipment for front-line health-care workers fighting the coronavirus.

What will it take to start again with elective surgeries? Dr. Steven Mobley, a facial plastic surgeon in Salt Lake City, joined Lee Lonsberry on Live Mic to explain the situation in Utah.

“People are having to put off their elective surgeries right now because of coronavirus. What are the ramifications of that?” Lee asked.

“What is an elective medical procedure? Sometimes people might conjure up that you’re going into your dentist to get your teeth whitened. That’s heavily elective, agreed,” Mobley said. “A lot of health maintenance procedures are technically elective.

“In terms of preventative care, think of things like colonoscopies, mammograms, prostate checks. All of those types of procedures are considered elective, and they’re all being put on hold,” Mobley said. “The numbers are quite staggering,” Mobley pointed out.

Of the 1.6 million colonoscopies performed every month in the United States, Mobley said about 10,000 cases result in a malignancy needing to be removed from a patient’s colon so it doesn’t lead to colon cancer.

Preventive care postponed

After two months of canceled colonoscopies in the United States, there are 20,000 people walking around with treatable cancer that is now spreading, Mobley said.

“This is a two-sided equation. We have the obvious deaths because we see them on TV every night about how many of our citizens are dying from this horrible coronavirus.

“But there’s going to be another side of the equation about deaths that may occur because of prolonged suicides, depression and other problems. I encourage everyone to sort of look at all the lives affected during this very difficult time,” Mobley said.


“What importance should we place on testing? What does testing help us understand? And what will testing ultimately lead us towards?” Lee asked.

“Ideally, I’d want to test myself once a week, and I’d also wanted test my staff once a week because we’re interacting with people,” Mobley said.

“If your dentist is doing routine cleaning, maybe you could hold off on the 65-year-old with asthma,” he answered. “But what if you are cardiologist? Those are your patients, and you have to have them come safely to your office. So more testing for sure is going to be the need.”

Mobley said it’s going to take time for the testing to catch up with the need because the whole world is trying to order these chemicals at once.

As of Tuesday, Utah had tested more than 72,000 people for COVID-19. In comparison, as of Sunday, Colorado had tested about 47,400 people.

“Our per capita death rate is one of the lowest round the world,” Lee said.

“Utah has been pretty proactive,” Mobley said. “I don’t know if it’s just because we have a very healthy state culture. It seems like we’re doing pretty well compared to the rest of the nation.”

Live Mic with Lee Lonsberry can be heard weekdays from 12:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app.

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah:

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line 18004567707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States


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Live Mic: Doctor shares the impact of postponing elective surgeries