HealthWise: NOCHS will open for all surgery on May 29

When the Governor’s Executive Order regarding medical providers lifts on May 29, NOCHS will be ready to perform all surgery. Here’s what you need to know.

Q.    What procedures are being resumed at NOCHS as of May 29?
A.    In a word: all. The Governor has lifted the restriction on medical providers. This means that provider offices will start to open, and the hospital will be fully open for all procedures. This includes elective as well as emergency surgery, screening procedures that require anesthesia, and both inpatient and outpatient surgery. So now, for example, you can schedule a colonoscopy. You can have cosmetic surgery. You can have cataract surgery. Anything that was being delayed because a surgeon said it was non-essential can now be scheduled.

Q.    How quickly can my surgery be scheduled?
A.    The road to the surgical suite can involve multiple stops. You might need to see your primary care physician first, to get a referral. Then you might need to visit a surgeon’s office. Then you will need a pre-op physical. All of these things must happen before you reach the hospital. The good news is that primary care and surgeon offices are starting to reopen for business. However, you will need to allow time to get scheduled and get the work done. It won’t happen immediately.

Q.    What are you doing to ensure my safety at the hospital?
A.    Three days before your scheduled procedure, you will undergo a COVID-19 test at our testing site. If you test positive, your procedure will be rescheduled unless it is an emergency (see below)  If your test result is negative, that means we can continue to the next step. When you arrive at the hospital for your procedure, you will be screened and we will take your temperature. If those results are negative, you will be admitted. You will be taken directly to the pre-op area and remain there both before and after your procedure. Remember that a hospital operating room is one of the cleanest places you can be. Infection is always a risk, so we routinely take extensive precautions around cleanliness. Those precautions have not diminished. All of the hospital staff is wearing face masks, washing hands regularly, and observing every possible safety precaution. You are probably safer here than anywhere else.

Q.    How much COVID-19 has there been at the hospital?
A.    We are thankful to say that the number of people in the hospital being treated for COVID-19 is extremely low. It’s not zero, but it’s extremely low compared to other places. That’s probably due to a combination of factors. This is a small and relatively healthy community. The health system has taken extensive precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, such as doing all testing off-site. And perhaps most importantly, our community has taken this seriously. Most people have done their best to follow the guidelines to stay safe.

Q.    How do I go about scheduling my surgery?
A.    Most physicians’ offices are starting to call patients and work through the backlog. If you have not yet heard from your doctor’s office, it is definitely time to call them. Remember that surgeons must make difficult decisions about which cases are most urgent. Everyone has been waiting, but the risk of delay in some cases is greater than others. The less-pressing cases will be in line behind the more time-sensitive ones.

Q.    What would cause you to slow down the surgery scheduling process?
A.    At this point, we are following the guidelines issued by the State. We obviously must continue to follow those guidelines if they draw back for any reason. The only other reason we would slow down is if we ran low on supplies.

Q.    Who can come with me for surgery?
A.    If you are having outpatient surgery, you are allowed to have one adult driver with you. That person will also be screened upon arrival. Thereafter, he or she will be required to wear a face mask and remain in the pre-op area the entire time. Note that if you are having inpatient surgery or if you are admitted overnight, no visitors are allowed.

Q.    How is your supply of personal protective equipment?
A.    We have an ample supply, and we are watching our inventory carefully. You would be amazed by how much “stuff” a hospital needs. Much of it comes from other countries, so managing the supply chain requires careful attention to detail. Although there is great demand around the world, our staff has worked tirelessly to ensure we are well supplied.

Q.    What happens if I am COVID-positive and need emergency surgery?
A.    We have specific protocols to treat surgical patients who are COVID-positive, including rooms with extra air filtering. We can take care of you safely while protecting our staff and other patients.

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