The University of Vermont Health Network has begun scheduling non-urgent and elective outpatient procedures and appointments that do not require a hospital stay, beginning with those postponed to prepare for COVID-19. Timing and procedures will vary. The central focus at every location will be patient and staff safety.
“People in our region have done a good job of staying home and following guidance to protect themselves and their neighbors, reducing the spread of COVID-19,” said John R. Brumsted, MD, chief executive officer of The UVM Health Network. “I am proud that we are able to begin safely rescheduling procedures that our patients have been waiting for. We know that even procedures considered non-urgent or elective can have a measurable impact on people’s lives.”
UVM Health Network providers will aim to operate at about 60 percent of normal capacity for several weeks to ensure social distancing and continued conservation of personal protective equipment (PPE). Network providers will reach out directly to patients whose procedures or appointments were postponed, but any patient should call their provider with questions or concerns, including those regarding routine care.
The health care environment has changed. Here’s what to expect:
Every UVM Health Network location is taking extra precautions and following updated guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), American Hospital Association and other leading health care organizations. Experiences may vary slightly, but all providers are prepared to safely care for patients. Below is an overview of what to expect. However, your provider’s office will make sure you have all the specific information you need to get to and from your appointment safely.
• Only a few appointments at a time are scheduled to limit the number of patients and staff in network buildings.
• Visitors are still not allowed, with certain exceptions, such as labor and delivery and end-of-life care. Patients will need to attend appointments alone unless they need assistance. We understand it may be difficult to experience your exam or procedure without a support person, but this policy is in place to protect everyone’s safety. Please reach out to your care team for more information.
• To reduce the amount of time spent in common areas, like waiting rooms, patients may be asked to wait in their cars, and may be brought directly to an exam room instead of checking in at a front desk.
• Patients and staff will be screened at building entrances for symptoms and possible exposure, including temperature checks. For patients with respiratory complaints or a fever, we are taking every precaution to minimize exposure to others and get patients the care they need.
• All patients and staff will wear masks. If you have a mask, please wear it to help us conserve PPE. Patients who do not have a mask will be provided with one.
• Before certain outpatient surgeries or procedures, some patients will be tested for COVID-19 and asked to quarantine between the time of the test and the time of the appointment. In addition, patients admitted through the UVM Medical Center emergency department may also be tested for COVID-19.
Cleaning and sanitizing
• As usual, exam rooms are thoroughly cleaned between patients. We are also cleaning common areas like check-in desks, waiting rooms, doorknobs and faucets, frequently throughout the day. Hand sanitizer is also available and patients may be asked to clean their hands during their appointment.
Don’t delay your care. We’re here for you.
At the same time UVM Health Network hospitals in Vermont and Northern New York have been caring for COVID-19 patients, they have been safely providing care to many other patients – families bringing babies into the world, patients needing care for heart attacks or strokes, and accident victims.
Clinical leaders continue reminding the public they should not hesitate to seek care in the event of an urgent medical situation. That advice now applies to routine or non-urgent care as well. All appropriate precautions are being taken to keep patients and staff safe. Patients will be contacted by their provider’s office to reschedule a postponed encounter, or to confirm a previously scheduled one. However, patients should call with any questions or concerns, including those about routine care.
“We understand many in our community are concerned about safety, and we do not want anyone to delay care they need because of those concerns,” Dr. Brumsted said. “This message applies to those in need of urgent care, and those in need of regular preventive and elective health care. We are here for you, we are able to care for you safely, and we want to support you in managing your health.”
Health care has changed and your options have expanded.
Another change that patients may experience is the increased use of eHealth, especially video visits. During the COVID-19 pandemic, UVM Health Network providers, including those here at Home Health & Hospice, have expanded their ability to meet the health care needs of patients who may be seen virtually. Before the pandemic began, about 60 patient visits per week were being done remotely across the network. That number has skyrocketed to 6,000.
“This has been an unexpected silver lining,” Dr. Brumsted said. “We are hearing from patients that they really appreciate the convenience of eHealth options, and we believe that this way of connecting with our patients is here to stay.”