The decision to suspend elective surgery ordered by Governor Abbott in March was implemented to allow healthcare facilities to focus on treating patients who were hospitalized with COVID-19 and to prevent the overcrowding of hospitals. It was also done to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline healthcare providers as the number of infected patients increased. Because of these measures, many patients had their elective or “non-essential” surgeries canceled or postponed. Now that healthcare facilities have resumed elective surgeries patients are now faced with new concerns and apprehensions about surgery due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To feel comfortable moving forward with your elective surgery, it is important to understand the additional precautions that surgical teams and healthcare facilities are taking to ensure a safe setting for your operation. Safety precautions have always been an essential part of the surgical process but have now been beefed up and adapted to fit the needs of the patient and the facility staff during the pandemic.

For example, the following is a summary of some of the COVID-19 specific safety measures in place at Bear Creek Surgery Center in Keller, TX. Many of these measures are in place at other surgery centers and operating rooms throughout the DFW area.

Screening:

  • All patients, vendors, contractors, employees, and surgeons are screened prior to entering the building.
  • A pre-operative screening assessment is carried out over the phone to determine the risk for the patient being scheduled for surgery. If the patient identifies positive risk factors, the surgeon is contacted, and CDC guidelines and recommendations are implemented.
  • Surgical patients undergo COVID-19 testing 72 hours prior to surgery.
  • Patients are being asked to call and reschedule their surgical appointments if they develop COVID-19 symptoms prior to surgery.
  • Staff and surgeons are being asked to contact the facilities and inform them immediately if they are experiencing any symptoms of COVID-19. They are then advised to undergo testing and stay home until further instructed.

Distancing and Protection:

  • Staff and surgeons adhere to strict standard precautions for the use of personal protective equipment, including the use of N95 masks and enhanced hand hygiene as advised by the CDC. Masks must always be worn by everyone in the building. Hospital style masks are issued at the front door.
  • Measures taken to ensure that environmental cleaning and disinfectant procedures are carried out consistently and correctly with special detail.
  • Only the patient is allowed into the surgery center. Family members and caretakers are given updates by staff during the procedure by phone and the surgeon will call the patient's family member or caretaker once the surgery is completed.
  • Payments are made prior to surgery over the phone. Any documents needed will be provided by the surgeon's office to eliminate the transfer of cards and licenses.
  • The waiting area is now only used as a screening area.
  • Social distancing (6 feet or more of spacing) is applied in the pre-operative and post-operative care areas where possible.

As surgeons, we want you to know that no question or concern is off-limits or too small, especially right now. Surgeons want their patients to be well informed and to feel comfortable throughout the surgical process. If you feel uncertain about something, do not hesitate to ask your surgeon. Remember, communication with your surgeon is a shared responsibility and it is a crucial part of the surgical process!

To read about the precautions we are taking at Foot and Ankle Associates of North Texas, click here.

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