Surgery precautions in place as hospitals get back to normal

New measures include pre-surgical COVID-19 tests and limited visitors

Dr Geoffrey Haft and two other surgeons in personal protective equipment work on a patient at a table draped in blue. A computer in the foreground shows an X-ray of a spine..

Sanford Health has been able to prepare for a return to “normal” health care needs while still taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Ultimately, that represents a significant win.

The process of getting through the pandemic is not complete. Patients who are seeking medical attention should understand that Sanford Health is continuing to take additional measures to assure patient safety.

It is important to note:

  • These measures have played a valuable role in securing safe health care within the region.
  • These safeguards are still in place as those seeking attention for non-coronavirus issues decide to address those needs.
  • Those seeking medical attention for non-coronavirus issues should not hesitate to do so.

“The number of surgeries are increasing as we continue to open up elective cases,” said Dr. Geoffrey Haft, a Sanford Health orthopedic surgeon. “But as we’ve ramped up our elective services, we’ve put a lot of safety precautions in place to make sure the hospital is the safest environment.”

Precautions include tests before surgery

All those who intend to undergo elective surgery get a preoperative test for the coronavirus. It is standard procedure and it joins several other precautionary guidelines implemented in wake of the pandemic.

Questions pertaining to the coronavirus precede entrance for both patients and visitors. In addition, Sanford requires masks for all employees and everyone else who enters a Sanford facility.

Patient visitation guidelines, though eased recently, continue to be limited to one visitor per patient during visiting hours (7 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily) for all areas except designated COVID-19 units. There are some exceptions for end-of-life care, NICU and pediatric patients.

“The majority of our patients have been very understanding,” said Dr. Kristofer Kimber, a Sanford Health orthopedic surgeon. “They realize these procedures and protocols are in place for their protection. The universal goal is to keep COVID isolated.”

Easing visitor restrictions

While ensuring patients are cared for in a safe and healthy environment, Sanford Health has also recognized that being alone for hospital stays, and some clinic appointments, can be difficult. It is why, with some provisions, non-COVID patients can now have one visitor per day. Pediatric and neonatal patients are allowed two visitors per day.

Guidelines regarding patients preparing for surgery remain the same.

“Rules are in place and every hospital does things a little differently,” Dr. Kimber said. “Our hospital has agreed that we need to COVID test everybody preoperatively so that we don’t have unknown positives sitting in the hospital.”

Providers are also making an effort to limit patients’ stays to further reduce risks.

Wave averted so far

In short, since the coronavirus entered the region, dramatic efforts have been made to minimize its effects. Throughout, this effort has been executed with one eye on the week ahead and the other on the extended future.

“Like everyone else, three months ago we weren’t sure how this whole thing was going to play out in terms of the number of patients we were going to have who were sick from COVID,” Dr. Haft said. “So we basically cleared out the hospital to create space for them.”

Sanford Health considered the potential consequences and prepared for significant numbers.

“We just weren’t sure what kind of a wave was going to wash over South Dakota,” Dr. Haft said. “And as it turns out, the wave was much smaller than most of the models predicted. It was more of a ripple than a big wave.”

Precautions pay off

The preparation for more difficult coronavirus circumstances made the return to normal business a much more efficient process. Precautions were already in place and being practiced.

“The number of new cases in our state is slowing down,” Dr. Haft said. “And certainly the number of hospitalized cases is really slowing down. Since we’ve started to open things up in the hospital we’ve not seen any spike in COVID cases among patients or providers.”

Dr. Haft added: “The hospital is a very safe environment to receive care in South Dakota at this point. We’ve been able to ramp it up about twice as quickly as we had anticipated about a month ago.”

In the meantime, the public has made the best of it despite dealing with persistent uncertainties. It has not been easy and it is not over.

It is, however, moving in the right direction.

“When you explain to patients that it’s for their safety and the safety of the staff, they understand,” Dr. Kimber said. “Personally I have had very little push back. Everyone understands it is part of the new protocol. That’s how it works.”

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Posted In Coronavirus, General Surgery, Orthopedics, Sioux Falls, Specialty Care

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