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Gender Affirming Healthcare Paused, Explained in Town Hall

Elizabeth Gabriel


Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, non-essential surgeries have been put on hold. That includes life-altering procedures, such as gender affirming surgeries. On Tuesday, Basic Rights Oregon held a town hall to hear patients’ questions about their procedures. 


Legacy Health consultant Hayes Young said gender reassignment surgeries are not elective procedures.

“All of us wholeheartedly agree that gender affirming surgeries are essential, are important and are life saving,” said Young. “When we use a term like elective, that means it's planned for, it means that we have some planning for that. We do not see these surgeries at all as cosmetic.”

Young said when they first considered rescheduling surgeries they said, “no, we're not going to cancel these surgeries. These are important too,” said Young. But after spending a day in the hospital, seeing how many resources are used per patient, they realized what they had to do.

“I don't want any of our patients to get sick,” said Young. “I don't want their family members to get sick. I don't want the people taking care of them to get sick. I don't want our nurses and our CNAs and our anesthesiologists to get sick.”

And for gender affirming surgeries—as well as all surgeries—Young said recovery depends on patients being as healthy as possible. And that means reducing their exposure to respiratory illnesses.

“We talk to patients all the time who have had chest or breast surgeries and we're like, ‘we need you as well as possible. You don't want to be coughing when you have had really large incisions on a place that's going to be impacted,’” said Young.

One of the reasons hospitals have not rescheduled surgeries is because they do not know how many resources will still be needed to fight COVID-19 in the coming weeks. And with Oregon’s outbreak numbers projected to peak this month, they do not know when they will be able to reschedule surgeries.

Young said rescheduling surgeries is not solely determined by the number of COVID-19 cases, it is also a question of how many cases will need hospitalization.

“Because if we look at cities like New York, entire hospitals are being taken up,” said Young. “Or the majority of hospital space is being repurposed for intensive care for a lot of respiratory care, things like that.” 

Hayes hopes Legacy Health will be able to reassess their supplies in the next seven to ten days.

Patients are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider to determine their next steps for receiving gender reassignment surgery. 

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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