It’s been a week since hospitals have resumed performing elective surgeries on the Peninsula.
On March 25, Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order banning elective surgeries performed at hospitals ––save for emergency operations –– to conserve personal protective equipment. The day before the order’s expiration date, he extended the ban on elective surgeries for another week to May 1.
Some surgeries were postponed because of the ban, so how are hospitals handling appointments and what criteria are they using to schedule appointments now?
Riverside Health System had Facebook Live event Friday that addressed the new procedures for elective surgeries.
Dr. Daniel Munn, chief of surgery and director of trauma and acute care surgery, said the health care system is following a new scoring system, Medically Necessary Time-Sensitive Prioritization, from American College of Surgeons, to decide which surgeries should be considered priority when rescheduling.
“We use this system to bring in the folks that have the least likely need to utilize a lot of resources to have this surgery or [least likely] to be admitted to the hospital overnight,” Munn said.
Dr. William McAllister, a neurosurgeon, said while some of his surgeries could be delayed, many, such as surgeries on brain tumors, have been continuing throughout the pandemic. But during this time, there were changes in how people’s issues were addressed.
“A delay of two months did have an impact on a lot of patients we deal with,” McAllister said. “So we continued to operate but not at the pace prior to the COVID crisis.”
The facilities are also taking extra precautions with patients coming in for elective surgeries. Patients will now be screened for coronavirus symptoms multiple times before coming into a facility and will be required to wear masks while inside.
Staff will also wear extra personal protective equipment, such as new masks Munn described as looking like a gas mask, and additional cleaning procedures will be taking place.
“Anytime we do surgery, even before COVID, all of us do what we can to protect patients and staff,” Munn said.
While more elective surgeries are happening, patients are still not allowed to have visitors. Previously, many surgeries would require the patient to have someone available to drive them after and the driver could wait in the facility’s waiting area. Now patients are still required to have drivers but they are not allowed in the facility and have to be contacted when it is time for a patient to be discharged.
Patients who are rescheduling their surgeries should also come in for additional assessment to make sure there are no changes in health since their surgery was originally scheduled.
At Bon Secours, there are also changes being made to address elective surgery rescheduling.
“Bon Secours has a task force in place that is planning for the safe resumption of elective surgeries and other medical procedures and treatments that were suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Jenna Green, spokeswoman for Bon Secours, wrote in an email Wednesday. “The task force is diligently working with local and state health agencies to make decisions that put the health and safety of every patient, resident, associate and visitor first.”
She said the hospital system is following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local and state agencies including the Virginia Department of Health.
“Beginning May 1, Bon Secours is selectively expanding clinical care within our facilities including elective procedures, based on patient needs, clinical criteria and physician recommendations,” Green added. “We encourage patients to contact their practice directly with questions and for information about how this may affect their care.”
It’s unclear what the name of the task force is, how Bon Secours determines criteria for priority surgeries and how the hospital system is working with patients whose appointments were postponed to a later date.
WYDaily reached out to Bon Secours for further comment and received the following statement:
“We don’t have any additional information to share at this time,” Green wrote in an email Thursday.
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