Monday, October 2, 2023

An area health care system is not testing patients for the coronavirus before elective surgery while others are. Here’s why

Elective surgeries have resumed in Virginia. (WYDaily/ File photo)
Elective surgeries have resumed in Virginia. (WYDaily/ File photo)

As elective surgeries start ramping up amid the coronavirus pandemic, some health care systems in the area are taking extra precautions by testing their patients for the coronavirus.

Elective surgeries are previously scheduled procedures not considered urgent such as torn ACLs and rotator cuffs to mastectomies and kidney stone removal.

Sentara Healthcare tests patients including those who are asymptomatic. Bon Secours tests patients, too, depending on the type of elective surgery.

But Riverside does not test their patients prior to surgery if they are asymptomatic.

“We take our patients health and their peace of mind very seriously,” Peter Glagola, spokesman for Riverside, wrote in an email. “Currently, we are not testing prior to surgery for patients without symptoms of COVID-19 as the results may not be valid on the day of their surgery.”

Glagola said one reason is because many commercially available rapid testing machines for the virus are associated with an unacceptably high false negative rate. Tests that are sent to reference labs are more accurate but also take longer for results to return. This leaves a gap between when the test was performed and when a surgery would take place.

Instead, Riverside is screening patients with physical exams and temperature checks. If a patient has any symptoms of the virus, they will be tested and their surgery will not be scheduled.

So rather than test every single patient, Riverside uses “an abundance of caution” by wearing maximum personal protective equipment and following heightened cleaning procedures.

“We believe this process will provide a very safe environment for our patients and is consistent with what other leading hospitals across the country are doing presently,” Glagola said.

While this is Riverside’s current process, it may change in the future as communities start to reopen and testing improves, Glagola noted.

During a Facebook live event last week, staff from the health care system said they are following a new scoring system from the American College of Surgeons called Medically Necessary Time-Sensitive Prioritization, which helps to determine which surgeries should be prioritized.

Elective surgeries have also resumed at Sentara Healthcare.

But before patients can have their procedure, Sentara is testing asymptomatic patents 48 hours prior to surgery, said Dale Gauding, spokesman for Sentara. The health care system is also testing all labor and deliver patients as much as possible before they come into the hospital.

To reschedule a surgery, patients also must first go through a set of screening procedures for the virus, according to Sentara’s website.

Jenna Green, spokeswoman for Bon Secours, wrote in an email Wednesday, the hospital system follows all state and federal guidelines set by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the Virginia Department of Health and Gov. Ralph Northam’s executive orders.

Not all elective surgeries have resumed at Bon Secours and the hospital system will selectively expand clinical care based on certain factors.

“We have an unwavering commitment to safety, and will keep the well-being of our patients, residents, associates and communities as our highest priority,” she wrote. “Bon Secours began selectively expanding clinical care within our facilities including elective procedures on May 1, based on patient needs, clinical criteria and physician recommendations.”

WYDaily asked Bon Secours if they tested patients for the coronavirus prior to surgery, if they tested their operating room staff for the coronavirus, how the hospital systems was prioritizing surgery patients and what recommendations they were using in terms of elective surgeries.

“All of our latest updates can be found under the COVID-19 banner on our website, including details about patient testing prior to surgery,” she wrote. “We encourage patients to contact their practice directly with questions and for information about how this may affect their care.”

Bon Secours has limited the amount of entrances at their hospitals, implemented visitor restrictions and social distancing guidelines.

All patients are required to wear masks, are screened and have their temperatures checked prior to entering the facility, according to the Bon Secours Elective Surgery and Procedure FAQs’ website.

Staff are also required to masks and other personal protective equipment “where appropriate.”

For patients whose appointment was postponed, the hospital will call to reschedule their appointment or the appointment may be rescheduled through the provider.

“Depending on the type of procedure you’re scheduled to have, you may be required to be tested for COVID-19 prior to your appointment,” the website noted. “In addition, you will be advised to self-quarantine after testing and prior to day of surgery.”

For patients who tests positive, their surgeries will be postponed.


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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