Patients in pain as many surgeries canceled due to coronavirus


CRYSTAL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — While Michigan weathers the coronavirus, surgeries remain on hold and operating rooms sit empty as hospitals across the state continue to postpone all nonurgent procedures.

The move has been agonizing for patients. Vince Chelf, 62, of Crystal is one example, running on a lot of pain and little patience.  

 Chelf isn’t usually one to complain, but chronic pain has changed that.  

“It’s called a frozen shoulder,” Chelf described his condition, which is characterized by pain and stiffness in the shoulder joint.

Chelf was diagnosed last month and was scheduled to have surgery at Sparrow Carson Hospital.

“I was originally to have (surgery) on April 7th and it was canceled because of the virus,” he said.  

Hospitals across the state have made a similar calls, announcing the cancellation of all nonurgent, also known as elective, surgeries last month.  

“I thought elective surgery was like cosmetic surgery,” Chelf said. “This is my pain.

“I understand why they’re doing it, but it’s too broad of a thing,” he continued. “They need to look at each case.” 

Last week, Chelf asked his doctor if physical therapy would be an option for him to get through for the time being.  

“She said, “Yes, that would be great,’” he recalled.

But the physical therapist said no, telling Chelf his Type 2 diabetes put him high risk for developing a severe case of COVID-19. The therapist can’t risk him coming in for treatment.  

“I’m not blaming my doctor or the therapist,” he said. “I’m kind of upset with the whole system.” 

There are no options for him and others, he said.

“How many people are in worse shape than I am that will go in before me and should?” Chelf said. “But how long is that going to push me back?” 

Even when elective surgeries start back up again, Chelf heard it could be a matter of months before he’s back on the books.  

“I hope other people that have my problem or worse problems… find some relief easier than I have,” Chelf said.  

When asked about the current elective surgery policy, a spokesperson for Sparrow sent News 8 the following information:

  • This policy, enacted several weeks ago, applies to all Sparrow sites of care.  
  • We have cancelled all elective surgeries at any Sparrow inpatient facility. Surgeons, in general, know which cases are elective. 
  • Cases for urgent disease treatment such as sepsis, cancer, cardiac surgeries for unstable Patients, aneurysm repairs, incarcerated hernias and the like are not elective and for the safety of the Patient may proceed. 
  • Elective Colonoscopies, chronic pain procedures, non -urgent pediatric dentistry, are all examples of elective procedures that should be rescheduled to a later time. At present, we do not when the elective schedule will resume. 
  • However, we continue to see Patients in many departments, such as cardiology and Mother Baby (labor and delivery). 


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