Ascension St. Vincent’s announced plans to begin a phased, measured and clinically led process to resume surgeries for certain elective and medically necessary procedures at its sites of care across central Alabama in accordance with Governor Kay Ivey’s recent direction to selectively ease social distancing restrictions.
Effective May 1, the health system will gradually reintroduce the availability of certain elective surgeries and medically necessary procedures while continuing efforts to serve and support patients, associates and communities impacted by COVID-19. The timing of this development will proceed in stages with guidance from health officials as well as federal, state and local authorities, and in accordance with Ascension’s system-wide safety and infection control protocols.
“As the number of new cases across Ascension St Vincent’s began to stabilize a couple of weeks ago, much of our time has been spent planning for a safe, gradual return to full operations. This planning has been led by our clinicians and we are prepared to safely reintroduce elective procedures, while continuing to serve and support individuals and communities impacted by COVID-19,” said Chris Moore, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, Ascension St. Vincent’s.
In the meantime, and until further notice, all Ascension St. Vincent’s facilities—hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics and offices—will continue to implement recommended infection control precautions with enhanced safeguards to minimize the exposure risks related to COVID-19 for patients and caregivers. Ascension St. Vincent’s facilities will maintain the required visitor restrictions and screening protocols for all individuals entering hospitals.
Additional enhanced safeguards for in-person visits include:
Screening. All associates are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they come to work and have their temperature taken at our entry points to ensure they are healthy before entering or interacting with patients at Ascension St. Vincent’s care facilities. Additionally, we are pre-screening patients for potential COVID-19 symptoms prior to procedures.
Cleaning and disinfecting. Environmental services teams will continue to perform rigorous disinfecting measures at all Ascension St. Vincent’s facilities.
Visitor Restrictions & Universal Masking. Temporary visitor restrictions were put in place by the Governor to protect patients and staff. Ascension St. Vincent's facilities will maintain the required visitor restrictions. Please contact your local facility for specific information and know that masks are required for entry into our facilities.
Waiting room distancing. Waiting areas have been arranged to ensure social distancing and immediate disinfection.
Urgent care needs. Unless it’s an emergency, patients are asked to call ahead and not to arrive unannounced at Ascension St. Vincent’s care facilities. By calling ahead, individuals can learn about and follow the safety procedures for each facility and schedule a safer time to visit.
Appointment scheduling. Ascension St, Vincent’s is offering staggered appointment slots and procedure times to reduce the number of patients with overlapping wait times.
On March 18, Ascension St. Vincent’s began postponing and canceling elective surgeries and non-urgent medical procedures at its hospitals and sites of care as a special precaution to help prevent the spread of infection and to help conserve resources and increase capacity for its system-wide response to COVID-19. Simultaneously, social distancing efforts established by federal, state and local governments were put in place to help communities “flatten the curve” and control the spread of COVID-19. During that time, Ascension St. Vincent’s hospitals continued to provide emergency surgeries and services for patients with emergency needs while also providing patients with convenient 24/7 access to providers via virtual care options and telemedicine. Now, Ascension St. Vincent’s facilities are following the guidance and direction of federal, state, and local authorities to gradually begin reintroducing certain elective surgeries, medically necessary procedures and other in-person services that should not be delayed.
“Although COVID-19 is still in our communities, we understand that individuals in our local communities have emergency and healthcare needs outside of COVID-19, many of which cannot be delayed or deferred without serious health risks,” said Jason Alexander, Chief Executive Officer, St. Vincent’s Health System. “Our ‘return to surgery’ approach is in full compliance with Governor Ivey’s recent direction and led by our clinicians, who are working with our providers on a process to keep our patients, associates and physicians safe and informed throughout this time of transition.”
With the reintroduction of certain elective procedures, St. Vincent’s staff will begin the process of contacting patients to reschedule procedures that were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, using clinical judgment to prioritize scheduling for patients with the most urgent and immediate needs.
For individuals experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress, emergency mental health concerns, or other acute illness or injury, a hospital emergency room is still the safest, most appropriate place to get care. Click here to find Ascension ERs in your area.
All Ascension St.Vincent’s hospitals will continue their COVID-19 readiness and response plans to both eliminate the spread of the virus and to immediately manage any possible surge of patients in need of care for the virus.