Elective surgeries and procedures, along with and a wide variety of in-person healthcare visits, will begin to resume on Monday, May 11, at Northwestern Medical Center (NMC), given recent authorization by Governor Scott. A team of physicians and hospital staff are finalizing the plans for restarting to ensure all the safety guidelines are properly met prior to restart. Once everything is in place to support a safe restart of these important aspects of care, NMC will begin contacting patients who have had appointments delayed due to the COVID-19 situation and restoring those appointments back onto schedules in phases.
Elective Surgeries and Procedures:
The restart of elective surgeries and procedures will involve a new pre-surgery process for patients to help ensure safety. Patients will be contacted in advance by their surgeon’s office to reschedule their procedure. The necessary pre-operative testing and preparations to ensure safety will be explained. Should a patient test positive for COVID-19 before their procedure, the patient will be referred to Primary Care and the procedure will be rescheduled for when they are well.
NMC’s surgeons will be prioritizing individual cases to appropriately move through the backlog of elective surgeries and procedures. This will be done systematically based on criteria that include the patient’s health risks, relative medical necessity, the timing of the original appointment, and related factors. At this time, only certain outpatient surgeries and procedures (those not requiring hospital admission) are being restarted. Inpatient cases will restart in a future phase to ensure proper resources and protocols are in place.
In-Person Medical Appointments:
In recent weeks, patients have been able to access in-person appointments when medically necessary and have made strong use of telemedicine for appointments that could be properly conducted remotely. These in-person visits have proven to be safe, as NMC has had the proper protocols and personal protective equipment (PPE) in place. The Governor’s authorization allows for the appropriate phased expansion of in-person visits, with the continuation of telemedicine options that serve the vulnerable populations particularly well. In this first phase, the Primary Care and Urgent Care offices in Georgia will remain consolidated into the St. Albans location for efficient use of resources. Hope and Recovery will continue their telemedicine service for now as those visits are very appropriate for remote care.
We will begin this next phase of in-person visits with those patients who are medically most appropriate. We expect to start with approximately 25% of normally scheduled visits will closely monitor to guide continued expansion. NMC is adapting its pre-screening process these appointments accordingly. This includes a telephone pre-screening the day before a patient’s appointment and a screening when the patient arrives for their appointment. Patients should wear a cloth face covering when arriving and should arrive alone, unless special assistance is needed. One accompanying support person is allowed for Pediatric patients.
Proceeding with Safety at the Forefront:
We are thankful for your patience with the deferral of elective surgeries and procedures and in-person medical appointments. We are looking forward to restarting this important care in a safe and effective manner. Meanwhile, we will continue to offer appropriate appointments via telemedicine, as that has been very well received throughout our community as convenient and effective. Further phases of the expansion of care will be guided by medical best practices, established guidelines, and the Governor’s orders as we work to ensure all care provided is done in a safe and appropriate manner.