Elective Surgeries Back on Track at Highland
When COVID-19 hit one of the first services put on hold was elective surgery. During that down time at Highland a plan was thoughtfully put in place about how to resume them when the hospital got the green light to do so.
“When we were able to resume elective surgeries there was a lot of pent up demand and our surgeons and patients were ready to go. Our challenge was to make that happen within the guidelines of how this could happen safely,” said Alan Curle, M.D., medical director, Perioperative Services and co-director of CPM. “We went from zero to 60 in a short span of time.” As of this writing we are already back to greater than 93% of our pre-COVID-19 volumes.
New procedures and processes put in place include pre-op COVID testing, the appropriate use of PPE, and required social distancing. “We had to walk through what our patients would experience and change work flows to ensure our patients were safe and felt safe,” he said.
Highland has 16 operating rooms but those can’t all be used at once because of social distancing requirements in pre and post op areas. Currently there are 11 ORs in use, but they are being made available for longer days.
To ease scheduling, OR blocks of time were given to chiefs of service to manage within their departments. “This is working well,” said Dr. Curle. “I would like to thank the chiefs for working so collaboratively with us during the relaunch. We could not have done this if we used our prior method of scheduling.”
“At first patients expressed trepidation about coming back to the hospital,” he said. “But they have seen proof that it’s safe. And that’s important because many patients need surgeries to decrease their risk of worsening health and loss of mobility.”
Dr. Curle stresses that the key thing that made everyone involved feel safer is pre-op COVID testing within 24 hours of surgery. “I want to thank Dr. Marj Gloff, an anesthesiologist and my co-director of our Center for Perioperative Medicine, who was the champion in this process and helped us develop a process for what needed to happen.”
COVID-19 testing is done off-site at 2180 South Clinton on the morning before surgery. Tests are picked up by courier at 12:30 p.m. and results are in by end of day.
“The perioperative staff has really stepped up,” said Dr. Curle. “We are using different staffing models and we respond, analyze, and change course when appropriate. We have also had great support from the Lab, Pathology, and Imaging to help us keep up with our new length of day.”
Dr. Curle is gratified by the response of Highland. “Everybody stepped up,” he said. “We did not find ourselves in any situation unprepared nor have we experienced any reduction in level of safety and care. Everyone was at the table who needed to be. No decision was made in a vacuum. Our priority has always been to protect patients and staff as we provided services that they needed.”