Ascension St. Vincent’s Florida and Gulf Coast President Tom VanOsdol said his system’s hospitals will be safe and open for business May 4.
As part of his plan to reopen Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis lifted his more than monthlong ban on elective surgeries, effective May 4.
Van Osdol said the hospital will continue operating with heightened safety protocols, but he emphasized Ascension facilities are safe.
“There’s folks who are delaying care now for seven or eight weeks,” he said. “It really is time for them to get the care they need.”
Hospital staff will begin rescheduling postponed elective procedures, prioritizing scheduling for the most immediate needs.
Everyone who enters an Ascension hospital will have a temperature check and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. Patients and staff must wear masks or face coverings.
Before patients undergo an elective surgery, they will need to take a coronavirus test.
Waiting rooms will be set up for social distancing. Any patients in the hospital exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms will immediately be brought to a separate ward, VanOsdol said.
Cleaning staff will sanitize the hospital multiple times a day.
While the hospital system relaxed visitation rules to allow patients to be accompanied by one other person, Ascension Chief Clinical Officer for Florida and the Gulf Coast Huson Gilberstadt said the hospital likely would operate under the protocols through the fall.
“We know we’re in this all the way through the fall and toward the end of the year or beyond depending on what the numbers look like,” Gilberstadt said.
While elective patients will be coming into the hospital more often, VanOsdol said he expects the system to continue using telemedicine to keep nonessential patients and staff out of the building. Across Florida, VanOsdol said Ascension saw more than 20,000 patients virtually.
“I see it being a part of the way we deliver care going forward,” he said. “I think this is a new normal. It’s always been a very efficient way to deliver care, but now it’s a safe way to deliver care.”
VanOsdol said he expects the return of patients to be gradual. Some may be hesitant to come right away.
“The first week or so it’ll begin to build more quickly, but I don’t expect Day One for there to be a huge influx,” he said.
As patients return to the hospital, VanOsdol said staff will begin to return as well. Ascension didn’t need to implement pay cuts, furloughs or layoffs at its facilities, but workers in lower-volume hospital areas were cross-trained to work in other departments or put on paid leave.
While the system was impacted financially by the loss of elective surgeries, VanOsdol said it could have been worse.
“This is one of those times where it’s really crystal clear that it is a huge benefit to be part of a strong national health ministry with the depth of resources we do,” he said. “Notwithstanding the fact we’ve experienced some economic detriment, we are far better positioned to weather this storm and be strong for the longterm future than most.”
UF Health also resuming elective surgeries
UF Health Jacksonville will resume its elective surgeries and begin accepting face-to-face appointments May 4, according to a news release.
“Protecting the safety of our patients, visitors and staff has been first and foremost during these challenging weeks, and I believe everyone in our organization has done an outstanding job,” said Leon Haley, CEO of UF Health Jacksonville.
“Just as importantly now, we can begin to schedule patients who have been waiting for this moment, and who have been extremely understanding about the restrictions we had to put in place,” he said.
Staff will begin contacting patients to reschedule postponed surgeries or outpatient appointments. The system also will continue offering telemedicine.
UF Health Jacksonville and UF Health North will continue to not allow visitors, except in special circumstances. Everyone will be screened at the entrance. Masks are required and provided to those who don’t have one.
The hospitals will continue to treat COVID-19 patients and reserve space in case of a surge.
By: Katie Garwood