surgeryAccording to a poll conducted by the American College of Emergency Physicians, nearly one third of Americans have delayed health care during COVID-19. There can be many fears about coming into a hospital when you’ve been told to stay home and social distance.

As restrictions gradually loosen and we embrace a new normal, some people are hesitant to come to the hospital, even for surgeries that were postponed due to the statewide shutdowns.

Surgeries for non-life-threatening conditions, such as joint replacements, weight loss surgeries, and even some cancer related procedures were postponed preventing potential overcrowding in hospitals as well as to conserve resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) that were vital to fight the pandemic.

“We have been performing emergent and urgent surgeries throughout the pandemic,” said Karen Tuzzolo, MSN, RN, CNOR, NE-BC director of surgical services at Mather Hospital. “However, the plan to reinstate elective procedures will be gradual. Steps are being taken to ensure the safety of our patients and staff before surgeries are performed.”

Mather has been recognized for exceptional hospital safety and has earned the most ‘A’ ratings for its safety practices of any hospital in New York State by The Leapfrog Group, a national independent hospital safety rating organization. The Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade, which was developed under the guidance of a national expert panel, uses up to 28 measures of publicly available hospital safety data to assign grades to more than 2,600 U.S. acute-care hospitals twice per year.

Going the extra mile to keep you safe

The hospital has implemented extra safety precautions during this period of COVID-19, especially as it is reopening services for surgeries.

“In addition to the universal precautions that we take with every patient such as environmental disinfection, handwashing and wearing masks, we’ve changed our pre-surgical testing procedures to allow for enhanced safety,” Ms. Tuzzolo said.

Mather has created a temporary satellite Pre-Surgical Testing (PST) trailer located outside the Emergency Department. This satellite unit has special ventilation needed to keep everyone safe who could possibly have an airborne illness. Normally, patients would come into the hospital for their PST appointment. Now they call from their vehicles upon arrival and a staff member goes out to greet them and bring them to our satellite PST trailer.

In response to the pandemic, we have streamlined our PST process to ensure patient safety while maintaining all social distancing precautions. Each patient scheduled for surgery will receive a phone call from a PST NP or RN who will conduct a preprocedural interview gathering your health history as well as screening you for COVID symptoms or exposures. Once that evaluation has been satisfactorily completed, patients receive two separate in-person PST appointments. The first appointment may include lab tests, EKG and x-rays. The second appointment is for COVID testing and is scheduled 48 hours prior to the procedure. Patients are instructed to follow these precautionary measures in preparation for your upcoming procedure:

  • Self-quarantine, stay at home, work from home
  • Avoid public places and use of public transportation
  • Frequent handwashing
  • Avoid close contact with anyone showing signs of respiratory illness including but not limited to fever, cough
  • Contact your physician if there are any changes in our health during this quarantine period such as cough, shortness of breath, diarrhea, abdominal pain or sudden respiratory symptoms.

“If a patient tests positive for COVID, depending on how emergent their surgery is, it may be postponed until they test negative for the virus. If their case is emergent, our staff can safely operate in one of our two negative pressure operating rooms,” Ms. Tuzzolo said.

“Only one patient at a time is seen in the trailer which allows for social distancing and a high level of disinfecting between patient visits,” said Ms. Tuzzolo.  Before entering the satellite PST, patients must wash their hands and put on a mask which is provided for them. Our nurses also wear N95 masks covered with a procedural mask as well as a face shield and other required PPE.

Mather Hospital sets high standards for patient safety and especially during this time has implemented additional processes to ensure a safe environment for you. All areas are disinfected and sanitized in between patients as well as using ultraviolet (UV) light in the ORs between cases to kill germs and viruses. The UV lights are also used on the patient care units to clean rooms.

In recovery, patients are kept at a safe distance from each other. For those patients who need to be admitted, Mather Hospital has designated patient care units to be for non-COVID patients only.  No matter where you may have to be in Mather Hospital, we are working hard to keep everyone safe– patients, staff, and the community.