Ascension Saint Thomas announces plans for resuming certain elective surgeries and non-urgent procedures

Ascension Saint Thomas announced plans to begin a phased, measured and clinically led process to resume surgeries for certain elective, non-urgent and medically necessary procedures at its sites of care across Middle Tennessee in accordance with Governor Lee’s recent direction to ease social distancing restrictions.

Effective May 4, the health system will gradually reintroduce the availability of certain elective surgeries and medically necessary procedures while continuing efforts to serve and support patients, associates and communities impacted by COVID-19. The timing of this development will proceed in stages with guidance from federal, state and local authorities and health officials and in accordance with Ascension’s system-wide safety and infection control protocols.

“It’s important we take careful and measured steps to ensure a safe and gradual return to providing full access to healthcare services while also continuing to serve and support individuals and communities impacted by COVID-19,” said Dr. Greg James, chief clinical officer, Ascension Saint Thomas. “As these events unfold, patients can expect expanded access to healthcare services with enhanced safeguards to ensure our sites of care continue to serve as healing environments – where quality care is delivered with the highest levels of safety and compassion.”

In the meantime, and until further notice, all Ascension facilities—hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics and offices—will continue to implement recommended infection control precautions with enhanced safeguards to minimize the exposure risks related to COVID-19 for patients and caregivers. Ascension facilities will maintain temporary visitor limitations and screening protocols for individuals entering hospitals, including temperature checks for 99.5 degrees or higher. The health system will also require every patient scheduled for an elective or non-emergency surgery to undergo screening and, when appropriate, testing for COVID-19. Following their screening and testing, patients will be asked to self-quarantine until their surgery.

Additional enhanced safeguards for in-person visits include:

  • Screening. All Ascension Saint Thomas associates are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they come to work, using screening tools designed to ensure they are healthy and symptom-free before entering or interacting with patients at Ascension care facilities.
  • Cleaning and disinfecting. Environmental services teams will continue to perform rigorous disinfecting measures at all Ascension facilities.
  • Visitor allowances. Temporary visitor limitations were put in place to protect patients and staff. As Ascension facilities begin to reopen for elective surgeries and procedures, they will begin the process of revisiting and relaxing policies to maximize safety for patients while also providing optimal social and spiritual support for healing. Personal masking will be a requirement for all visitors in our facilities. Please contact your local facility for specific information.
  • Appointment scheduling. Ascension is offering staggered appointment slots to reduce the number of patients with overlapping wait times.
  • Waiting room distancing. Waiting areas have been rearranged to accommodate social distancing, with fewer people so there is limited interaction with others
  • Urgent care needs. Unless it’s an emergency, patients are asked to call ahead and not to arrive unannounced at Ascension care facilities. By calling ahead, individuals can learn about and follow the safety procedures for each facility and including staggered scheduling.
  • Offsite screening locations. Patients with non-emergency symptoms of respiratory illness are asked to call ahead before visiting Ascension care facilities. Ascension has set up separate specialty care sites designed specifically for patients with such symptoms to decrease the risk of infection exposure at Ascension sites of care.

Ascension Saint Thomas began postponing and canceling elective surgeries and non-urgent medical procedures at its hospitals and sites of care as a special precaution to help prevent the spread of infection, conserve resources and increase capacity for its system-wide response to COVID-19. Simultaneously, social distancing efforts orchestrated by federal, state and local governments were put in place to help communities “flatten the curve” and control the spread of COVID-19. During that time, Ascension hospitals continued to provide emergency surgeries and services for patients with emergency needs while also providing patients with convenient 24/7 access to providers via virtual care options and telemedicine. Now, Ascension Saint Thomas hospitals are following the guidance and direction of federal and state authorities to gradually begin reintroducing certain elective surgeries, medically necessary procedures and other in-person services that should not be delayed.

“Although COVID-19 is still in our communities, we understand that individuals in our local communities have emergency and healthcare needs outside of COVID-19, many of which cannot be delayed or deferred without serious health risks,” said Tim Adams, president & CEO, Ascension Saint Thomas. “Our ‘return to surgery’ approach is in full compliance with Governor Lee’s recent direction and led by our clinicians, who are working with our providers on a strategic process to keep our patients, associates and physicians safe and informed throughout this time of transition.”

With the reintroduction of certain elective procedures, hospital staff will begin the process of contacting patients to reschedule procedures that were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, using clinical judgment to prioritize scheduling for patients with the most urgent and immediate needs. Services will also be available for patients to take a proactive role in their health and schedule appointments and regular doctors’ visits online or over the phone.

For individuals experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress, emergency mental health concerns, or other acute illness or injury, a hospital emergency room is still the safest, most appropriate place to get care. Click here to find Ascension ERs in your area.

All Ascension Saint Thomas hospitals will continue their COVID-19 readiness and response plans to both eliminate the spread of the virus and to immediately manage any possible surge of patients in need of care for the virus. COVID-19 testing will continue to be available at all Ascension Saint Thomas sites of care.

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