COVID-19 and the Safety of Elective Procedures
Because the situation surrounding COVID-19 is constantly evolving, some information may not be up to date. Stay informed by following information from your local officials and by visiting the CDC website.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began sweeping through Texas in mid-March, Texas Governor Greg Abbott temporarily suspended hospitals from offering elective procedures in order to ensure more hospital space for suspected COVID-19 cases. Things seemed to return to normal as time went on, but he placed another temporary ban on the procedures in June as the second wave occurred.
Now, as restrictions are lifting, St. Luke’s Health hospitals across the Greater Houston area are implementing new protocols to keep patients safe as they get the high-quality care they deserve.
Preoperative Precautions To Prevent the Spread of Infection
There are a number of steps a patient and their medical team must complete before surgery can occur.
“Typically, a patient receives a COVID-19 test 4-7 days before their procedure,” said Michael Thomas, RN, the Operating Room Director at St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital. “Only one negative test is needed. However, if a patient tests positive for COVID-19, their procedure is postponed until they have two negative tests at least 24 hours apart from one another.”
For people undergoing outpatient procedures, this testing usually coincides with a preadmission testing appointment to ensure they are ready for surgery. Meanwhile, people undergoing inpatient procedures receive this care on the floor or in the unit they’re currently in to reduce travel throughout the hospital.
Enhanced Cleaning Procedures To Remove Pathogens
In terms of the operating rooms themselves, St. Luke’s Health hospitals have increased the number of air exchanges to pump out potential pathogens. They also installed ultraviolet lights to perform decontamination treatments between uses, which a study published in the American Journal of Infection Control showed can reduce the number of germs in an operating room by nearly 98%.
Practices To Keep Patients Comfortable and Saf
Perioperative staff work only in the areas of the hospital that cater to patients who are about to go through surgery, are currently going through surgery, and are recovering from surgery. Therefore, operating surgeons, nurses, and assistants don’t come into contact with COVID-19-positive patients in the ICU, which reduces the risk of spreading the disease.
Additionally, the team at St. Luke’s Health recognizes the importance of having a loved one nearby throughout the recovery process.
“People undergoing an outpatient or an inpatient procedure are allowed one guest with advanced approval,” said Thomas. These guests, much like anyone else who enters the hospital, must undergo screening upon entering the facility, follow social distancing guidelines, and wear proper PPE at all times.
Rigorous Monitoring To Prevent Overcrowding
Significant issues have arisen in cities and countries where the hospitals didn’t have enough capacity, staff, or supplies to care for the influx of COVID-19-positive patients. Therefore, St. Luke’s Health is closely monitoring conditions within Houston, our communities, and our hospitals. If cases of COVID-19 begin to increase, we reevaluate whether or not elective procedures will continue or should be temporarily suspended.
Health concerns don’t wait. Neither should you. At St. Luke’s Health, our teams are ready to provide safe, high-quality care to our communities. Our thoughtful, thorough approach determines which procedures can safely be performed, where they can safely be performed. No matter what comes our way, you can count on the team at St. Luke’s Health. We are here, always.