PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Calls, emails and social media messages from patients and employees of surgery centers and doctors' offices reveal an unruly side of the medical community.
The story is similar from person to person and source to source. Elective surgeries are taking place across the Valley, despite Gov. Doug Ducey's emergency declaration that was supposed to stop these procedures for at least the next two weeks.
"Under the declaration of emergency, the governor has very broad authority to issue orders that are responding to the emergency," said Leila Barraza, who is an assistant professor at the University of Arizona's Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
Barraza says the declaration applies to elective and non-essential surgeries that utilize personal protective equipment or ventilators. It directs physicians and licensed health care facilities to delay procedures that can be delayed without undue risk to the health of a patient.
Gov. Doug Ducey made some major moves on Thursday to combat the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona.
The idea, according to Barraza, is to save the personal protective equipment, or PPE, for the front line health care professionals in the fight against the coronavirus.
But CBS 5 Investigates watched as patients entered and exited surgery centers across the Valley this week.
Early Friday morning, we watched as patient after patient entered the CORE Institute Specialty Hospital in central Phoenix. The hospital specializes in orthopedic and spine procedures. Many of those procedures are normally considered elective.
"We have completely halted all of the elective surgeries that are being performed at this time," said Dr. Arash Araghi, who is the chief medical officer at the CORE Institute.
Araghi said all of the patients who are still undergoing surgeries at the Specialty Hospital have been evaluated and their conditions deemed urgent.
He says CORE has canceled a majority of its surgical procedures.
"I don’t know the exact numbers but what I can tell us is this: we have about 50 surgeons that have been operating in like 10 different facilities across the Valley. Since we halted all the elective surgeries, we have moved all of our urgent cases to The CORE Institute Specialty Hospital. So, you have now 50 surgeons doing all their elective cases at one facility," said Araghi.
He says that could explain why the hospital looked so busy Friday morning. He also said one of the national bodies that oversees the health care industry recommended that surgeries be performed at specialty hospitals for the time being because they are less likely to spread a COVID-19 infection.
Officials from OASIS Hospital and Dignity Health's Arizona Specialty Hospital did not respond to questions about their elective surgery policies.
If a doctor or health care facility is found to violate Gov. Ducey's emergency declaration, the penalty is listed as a class 1 misdemeanor.