Watch Video: Staying safe during surgery

Surgeon Dr. Bob Yin speaks to the safety precautions our hospitals have in place for surgical procedures in place to protect patients from coronavirus exposure.

We’ve put together a list of questions and answers to help you feel secure about getting the care you need as soon as possible.

Over the past few months, we’ve been focused on the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and doing everything we can to save lives and keep people safe. During this unrivaled health crisis, we’ve had to postpone non-emergency surgeries and procedures for the safety of our patients and staff. On April 22, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom lifted restrictions at hospitals, allowing surgical procedures to resume.

If you’ve had your surgery or procedure postponed because of COVID-19 you might have questions about our ability to conduct safe surgeries, how we’re protecting our patients from the coronavirus, and other questions. This is perfectly reasonable, which is why we’ve put together a list of questions and answers to help you feel secure about returning to our hospitals, and receiving the care you need as soon as possible.

Why is the hospital increasing the number of essential surgeries while we are still in a pandemic? 

Many surgical procedures were either cancelled or delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we are seeing an increase in patients who have an immediate need for a surgical procedure and face deteriorating health if the procedure is further delayed.  At the same time, we currently have adequate capacity within our hospital and feel confident that we can safely care for additional patients who need an essential procedure.    

What precautions is the hospital taking to ensure patients having a procedure are not exposed to the COVID-19 virus?

The safety of our patients and caregivers is our number one priority. That’s why we have implemented a strict, multi-layer process to ensure the safety of patients receiving care within our hospital. This includes:

  • A no visitor policy, with exceptions for end-of-life visits, minors, NICU parents and maternity patients.
  • Screenings:
    • All caregivers are encouraged to self-screen before coming to work. If they are symptomatic, they must call their supervisor and stay home.
    • Everyone entering the hospital (caregivers, doctors, visitors, everyone) is being screened for fever. Anyone with a fever will be sent home.
    • If anyone develops symptoms while at work, they will alert their supervisor, contact caregiver health and go home under self-quarantine.
  • Isolating COVID-19 positive patients to one area of the hospital. This keeps the rest of the hospital safe.
  • Implementing measures that ensure we meet social distancing directives.
  • Universal masking: All caregivers wear appropriate hospital-issued masks while in the patient care setting.

Some news reports state that we have not yet hit the surge of COVID-19 cases. If this is true, will the hospital have capacity to support an increase in COVID-19 cases if they begin conducting surgical cases? 

Yes. Our hospitals on average are running at less than 50 percent of normal capacity. In addition, we have developed a surge plan that potentially increases our capacity up to 140 percent. We will also be monitoring our personal protective equipment (PPE) inventory levels and pharmaceuticals daily. Should we see a significant shift in any of these areas, we will immediately adjust scheduled procedures.

Will all types of surgical procedures be performed? 

A surgical review committee will conduct daily reviews of all requested and scheduled procedures.  Cases will be scheduled based on tiered criteria established by the hospital’s clinical leaders. 

The state’s stay-at-home mandate is still in effect. Doesn’t scheduling procedures conflict with this? 

No. We need to care for patients with COVID-19, as well as those who need immediate or urgent care.  Our goal is to provide care in a safe environment. This means adhering to strict safety protocols, a no visitor policy and social distancing guidelines.

Will patients be tested for COVID-19 before a procedure is scheduled? 

Yes. All patients scheduled for an invasive procedure will be required to have a COVID-19 test as part of their pre-operative work-up. 

Will patients be screened for COVID-19 symptoms when entering the hospital?

Yes. Patients will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms when coming into the hospital, even if their COVID-19 test was negative as part of their pre-operative work-up. If a patient has any positive symptoms, they will be given a mask and escorted to a designated area. Patients screening positive upon entry will be rescheduled unless care is deemed an emergency procedure by their physician. 

Will patients be given a surgical mask when entering the hospital? 

No. Patients scheduled for surgery will not be provided a surgical mask unless they have COVID-19 symptoms. As noted above, surgery patients will undergo a COVID-19 test and screening prior to entering the hospital.

If a patient is allowed a visitor based on exceptions noted above, will the patient’s visitor (such as a designated driver) be screened for COVID-19?

Yes. The visitor will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the hospital. If the visitor has symptoms, the visitor will not be allowed to enter. 

If a patient is allowed a visitor based on exceptions noted above, will visitor (such as a designated driver) be given a surgical mask when entering the hospital? 

No. Visitors will not be given a surgical mask. As recommended by the county, visitors should be wearing a cloth mask (at minimum) when entering the hospital. 

For those exceptions to the visitor policy, where will visitors (such as designated drivers) wait while the patient is in surgery? 

Visitors will be escorted to a designated waiting area that complies with social distancing requirements. 

Where should patients be picked up after surgery? 

Once the patient is discharged, the patient will be picked up at the same location they were dropped off at the hospital.

Stay informed about COVID-19 and connected by visiting our Coronavirus Resource Center.

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