A couple of weeks ago, we wrote an article about the risks of reopening elective surgeries here in Texas. We have now seen elective surgeries occur for about a week and at the end of this past week, Governor Abbott lifted the stay at home orders for the state. He announced the ability for businesses to begin to reopen and that coupled with the opening of elective surgeries has encouraged a number of medical practices to reopen for non-emergent visits. Even though we have been given permission to reopen many of these facilities, we must ensure that we are doing so safely for our patients and our staff. Below are some tips to help.
Minimize Visitors Accompanying Patients: Social distancing is going to continue to be crucial during this reopening phase and keeping the number of people physically inside to a minimum is going to be a must. Consider asking family members to wait in the car if at all possible. There will of course be some exceptions, for pediatric, elderly or disabled patients, but keeping visitors down is going to help minimize the spread of germs.
Test for COVID before Elective Surgery: A majority of hospitals have decided to screen patients for COVID before allowing elective surgeries and we believe it is a must for ALL patients headed into surgery. Because of the intimacy in surgery, there is a greater opportunity to spread diseases, especially where anesthesia is concerned. Patients should be tested and then remain quarantined until their surgery.
Reschedule As Many High Risk Patients As Possible: Patients at higher risk should be rescheduled for both office visits and surgeries whenever possible. Continue to encourage the use of telehealth services for these types of patients so they can be seen without the exposure risk.
Ensure Strict Hygiene Practices for Staff and Patients: Many practices and clinics have already been doing so, but it especially important to ensure that everyone (staff and patients) are wearing masks, sanitizing or washing hands upon entering the clinics,
Encourage Sick Patients and Employees to Stay Home: Anyone feeling sick should be encouraged to stay home from work and patients should be encouraged to reschedule their appointments, if possible. Some clinics have even dropped their cancellation fees for patients feeling ill in an effort to keep them home.
Screen All Patients and Staff: Temperature checks for both staff and patients is very important. If anyone presents with symptoms or a temperature they should be sent home. (Obviously this does not apply if the patient is there for a sick visit). Continue to ask about symptoms at check in to ensure there is no outward presence of COVID.
Be weary of Companies trying to Sell Rapid COVID Tests: Many new vendors are reaching out to physicians in order to sell rapid COVID tests. Many of these rapid tests have been ruled ineffective and not approved by the FDA. There are a lot of COVID related scams occurring right now, so do due diligence before purchasing anything.