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Elective surgeries resume at Riverside

Riverside Health System resumed outpatient elective surgeries Friday, the same day that Gov. Ralph Northam’s ban on elective surgeries expired.

Riverside announced its new guidelines for elective surgeries during its Facebook Live COVID-19 Update on Friday, which was held at Riverside Regional Medical Center in Newport News.

According to Senior Director of Perioperative and Cardiovascular Services Kim Healy, the surgical patient will be screened, asked to mask up, and perform hand hygiene upon arrival. The patient’s driver will be asked to wait in the vehicle while the patient is in surgery to be consistent with social distancing and to not allow congregating in the waiting rooms, the registered nurse said.

“The surgeries that were scheduled that have been postponed across the health system is probably about 800 or so, and all of those surgeries were elective, where the patient could wait and their medical care would not be altered negatively by waiting,” said Dr. Daniel Munn, Chief of Surgery and Director of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery, in a video on the topic on the Riverside COVID-19 YouTube channel.

Munn also mentioned that, “in terms of how we schedule elective cases now, we’re using a scoring system that’s been provided to us by the American College of Surgeons to help us determine what cases can be done with the least possible impact on the health care system in terms of how much personal protective equipment we need to use, risk to the staff, risk to the patients, in terms of COVID exposures and things like that.

“So we’re using guidance from national agencies to try and help us determine how to prioritize the elective cases,” said Munn.

Sally Ryan, Vice President, Physician Services and Chief Operating Officer, said that video visits can be done when appropriate. “All of our providers in both primary care and specialty offices can provide video visits,” said Ryan.

“It appears that we have reached the peak [of the virus] in our community,” according to Dr. Rebecca Sensenig, Infectious Disease Specialist. “And so, when we talk about reaching the peak in a pandemic, we really mean two things. The first is that we’re at the peak of medical resource utilization and the second is that the number of new cases has begun to level off so we’re not seeing the increase of new cases in upward trajectory every single day.”

Sensenig also made clear “that the peak of an epidemic is not a single-day event.”

“It’s more of a peak period, if you may,” she said. “And so, the cases increase and then they plateau at a higher level before they start to decrease. While we’re at that peak level there is a high rate of transmissibility of COVID-19 infection and so now more than ever it is very important that we maintain our social distancing and we maintain our hygiene practices while we get through this peak so that we can continue to have and see a decline in cases over the next couple of weeks.”

Sensenig said that one way to decrease the number of cases is for people to wear a cloth face-covering when they cannot maintain six feet of distance from another person, like at a grocery store or the pharmacy.

She also mentioned that people need to keep their face masks clean. “What’s important though is when you wear a mask we need to make sure that you are keeping it clean and so the most important thing is to always assume that the exterior of the mask is contaminated,” she said.

“So, you never want to touch the outside of the mask,” said Sensenig. “When you take it off you want to take it off by the ear loops and then you want to launder it, so all the cloth masks should be able to be placed in the washing machine and laundered with just your regular laundry. And it is recommended that is done after every use.”