As the northeast experiences new surges of COVID-19, the Northeast Region COVID-19 Coalition supports specific strategies to mitigate the spread of the virus, while preserving access to essential surgical procedures. We offer the following 4 recommendations and strategies for your consideration based on the lessons we learned in maintaining surgical care during the past nine months:
Recommendation 1: We must focus on data that will help preserve key resources such as hospital and ICU beds as well as PPE and appropriate medical staffing. To do so, we should look at meaningful data such as hospital bed availability, ICU bed availability and medical staff coverage. We advise against focusing solely on case numbers per region and testing positivity rates.
Recommendation 2: The last several months have taught us safe and effective ways to treat surgical patients through preoperative testing, perioperative viral precautions and appropriate use of PPE. We must carefully consider the types of surgery patients need so they may still obtain necessary and essential care in this environment and we should avoid a spigot approach to stopping essential surgeries. Recognizing that harm may come to patients whose procedures are delayed, cancer surgeries, trauma care and other acute procedures, should not be stopped during subsequent surges as was done originally in the spring of 2020.
Recommendation 3: While we respect the government’s efforts to keep our residents safe, those on the ground are best suited to make important triage decisions. Hospitals and physicians are the ultimate decision makers regarding the appropriate care and site of service for patients keeping in mind quality, safety, and risks. With the support of state guidance and coordination, hospitals and physicians are the most appropriate professionals to make decisions regarding essential care and services.
Recommendation 4: Hospitals remain the primary facilities to treat those critically ill with COVID-19 and for that reason, the maintenance of their resources is crucial. Additionally, ambulatory surgery centers and office based surgical facilities are safe, valuable settings to help offload the stress that hospitals may face during these difficult times. By looking specifically at projected rates of admission for each type of ambulatory surgery, these facilities can safely and effectively administer elective surgical care without further burdening acute care facilities.
Patients suffering from COVID-19, and patients requiring ongoing medical and surgical care are dependent upon the lessons learned during the past nine months.
We remain ready and willing to discuss any and all of these issues should you so desire. Thank you for your time and consideration of these issues vital to the health and safety of OUR patients.