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ROCKY MOUNT — In March, Nash UNC Health Care discontinued all elective, non-urgent surgeries and services under the guidance of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services in an effort to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 cases, conserve personal protective equipment and minimize unnecessary interactions of community members to reduce the spread of the virus.
Now, under new guidance from the DHHS and by the recommendation of Nash UNC’s Surgical Services Governance Committee, Nash UNC is resuming those postponed and priority procedures and services.
“We have been treating COVID patients for nearly two months now, and our volume has remained relatively stable at around three to eight COVID-positive patients in our facility at a given time. Many have been safely discharged to their homes,” said Lee Isley, president and CEO of Nash UNC Health Care. “In this timeframe, we have also been able to obtain necessary PPE, which was in short supply earlier in this crisis.”
Isley also explained that Nash UNC’s partnership with UNC Health allows the hospital to receive estimated projections of COVID volumes for four to six-week timeframes, and that the latest projection suggests a flattening of COVID volume for the next several weeks.
“With these projections, discussion with our medical staff, increased supply of PPE and updated recommendations from the CDC and N.C. governor’s office, we are resuming some priority services that allow us to serve our community’s medical needs while also keeping them safe,” Isley continued.
Dr. David Seaman, general surgeon and chair of the Department of Surgery, said he and his medical staff colleagues are being cautious about resuming non-emergency procedures and will be focusing on priority services that could affect patients if delayed any longer.
“We postponed non-urgent procedures to ensure the safety of patients, but now it is in the best interest of some patients to receive those services or procedures without further delay,” says Seaman. “Over time, their health condition could change and have negative implications if not treated in a timely manner.”
Medical staff are carefully reviewing their surgical cases and outpatient appointments, in accordance with the established government guidelines, and are contacting patients to schedule priority services and to review safety precautions.
Those precautions include screening of patients by phone prior to arrival and again upon arrival, spacing of appointments and of chairs in lobbies to ensure social distancing, providing masks to all, encouraging proper hand hygiene and continued visitor restrictions.
Only priority outpatient surgical procedures will be performed at this time, and all will take place in the Mayo Surgical Pavilion. Patients meeting established risk criteria, or based on the type of procedure they will be having, will be COVID tested before their procedure for patient and staff safety.
“We have many precautions in place to help reduce exposure to the virus as we resume additional services,” Isley said.
These precautions include:
• All patients, staff and visitors are screened at the door upon arrival.
• Staff are self-monitoring continuously and taking their temperature twice daily.
• Waiting areas are encouraging social distancing, proper hand hygiene and wearing of masks.
• Staff are wearing proper personal protective equipment throughout the entire care process to protect patients and themselves.
• Patient rooms and all areas of the hospital are continuously and thoroughly cleaned.
• Visitor restrictions are in place to protect patients, staff and community members. Those restrictions can be viewed on nashunchealthcare.org.
“We will continue to closely monitor our COVID volumes and projections, and must be flexible to adapt our operations should we anticipate a COVID surge,” said Isley. “We have certainly gained new knowledge and experience over the last six weeks, allowing us to improve our care for COVID patients and non-COVID patients, all while keeping our staff and patients safe. We will continue to work with our board of commissioners and medical staff to make decisions that are best for our patients, staff and community.”