Healthcare News & Insights

Taking extra precautions for surgeries during the coronavirus emergency

Some procedures can’t be put off, even during the coronavirus pandemic. 

But because containing the virus is still a top priority, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs) are encouraged by the Ambulatory Surgery Center Association (ASCA) and the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for protecting patients, families and staff from infection.

When surgery is essential

The ASCA recommended the following for ASCs performing necessary surgeries during the crisis:

  1. Pre-screen patients for COVID-19 symptoms or high-risk exposure, beginning with their physician’s office encounter and during any pre-admission communication. Rescheduling the appointment should be discussed if they develop symptoms of a respiratory infection like cough, sore throat and fever.
  2. Upon arrival, but prior to admission, ask patients again about any recent history of respiratory infection symptoms, and about similar symptoms in family members or close contacts. Check the body temperature of the patient. Also ask about possible contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 or recent travel to a high-risk area.
  3. Keep patients and accompanying visitors separated 3 to 6 feet. Provide supplies such as tissues, alcohol-based hand sanitizer and trash cans, and encourage frequent hand washing. If space is limited, ask patients and caregivers to wait in their cars until they need to enter the facility. Remove or regularly clean any toys or other communal objects.
  4. All visitors, including vendors, should be assessed for fever and respiratory symptoms. If fever or symptoms are present, they shouldn’t be allowed to enter. Determine the threshold of when screenings would escalate from passive (e.g., signs at the entrance) to active (e.g., direct questioning) to restricting all visitors. If it’s necessary to limit visitors, encourage the use of video call applications.
  5. Consider a post-procedure phone follow-up for patients after seven to 14 days to ask about any development of symptoms. Have a contingency plan in place if a positive result is confirmed. Follow any advice by public health authorities on notifying other patients and families who may have been exposed to someone subsequently diagnosed with COVID-19.
  6. Make sure appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is worn by providers based on their job description. Ensure they’re trained on, and have practiced, correct use of PPE, including removal.
  7. Because conservation and optimization strategies for PPE are critical, only essential personnel should be around COVID-19 cases.
  8. Conduct frequent educational meetings, including refresher training, for staff regarding infection prevention and related precautionary practices.
  9. Staff should be screened per public health policies for symptoms of COVID-19. Anyone with symptoms should contact their personal physician and avoid coming to work.

Patients requiring surgery are aware of the coronavirus risk. But if they see and understand that your facility’s doing everything possible to keep them safe, it can ease their minds, increasing chances of a successful outcome.

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