After a short time not offering elective surgeries due to COVID-19 concerns, staff at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver are seeing surgery numbers returning to pre-pandemic levels.
PeaceHealth Southwest’s Chief Medical Officer Lawrence Neville said it is “gratifying” to see the number of elective surgeries return to normal because many of these surgeries can greatly improve the quality of life for the patients.
According to Neville, an elective surgery is labeled as “anything that can be put off for more than 30 days without death.” Elective surgeries also fall into the category of non-emergent surgeries that can be scheduled and planned. Examples of elective surgeries include knee and joint replacements, ligament repairs and bariatric surgery. While these surgeries aren’t directly saving the life of the patient, Neville explained that elective surgeries can improve the quality of life for a patient as well as preventing future emergency surgeries. Bariatric surgeries, for example, don’t directly save the life of an obese patient but puts them on the road to recovery and a healthy lifestyle, preventing possible emergency surgeries in the future.
Neville credited the recent levels of elective surgeries to health and safety measures the hospital is taking to ensure the safety of patients and staff. During the beginning of the pandemic, many patients avoided going in for medical care even after Gov. Jay Inslee’s order preventing them was lifted.
“Unfortunately, a lot of folks put off getting treated and suffered consequences for doing so,” Neville said, mentioning that a patient of his suffered a heart attack at home and didn’t come into the emergency department for a couple of days. By the time the patient sought care, they were experiencing heart failure.
To ensure the safety of patients and staff and a return to care, Neville said the hospital has implemented many safety and health protocols. As well as having a mask requirement, each patient going in for an elective or emergent surgery is tested for COVID-19 so the staff can better treat the patient and protect themselves from potential harm. Visitors and patients are screened with temperature checks and COVID-related health questions before entering the hospital.
Neville said he was excited to allow patients to bring visitors into the hospital again. For the past couple of months, visitors have been restricted due to coronavirus.
“It’s really nice to have a family member with you when you have an overnight surgery,” he said.
Along with these protocols, staff and patients exposed to and working with COVID-19 are in a separate ward of the hospital to protect other members. According to Neville, the COVID area of the hospital is on a completely different air system than the rest of the facility and staff working in the COVID area have many different health codes and training to adhere to to ensure protection of staff and clients. Neville also said the hospital is working to increase the training and protections of the COVID unit because it is expected that cases will continue to be high until a vaccine is created.
“It’s very different to work in a COVID unit,” Neville said, mentioning that staff in COVID units wear full personal protective equipment and can get very hot. “We have increased our training program to better protect the patients and staff … Including making sure we have support people that can get providers water and the support they need.”
To learn more about PeaceHealth medical center and their COVID-19 preparedness, visit peacehealth.org/coronavirus
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