Ascension Seton implements phased approach to return to surgeries

Austin, TX Patch

Ascension Seton is anticipating resuming surgical procedures and other vital healthcare services for patients at its sites of care in a phased and cautious approach with a focus on quality and safety, effective April 27. All efforts are in alignment with Governor Abbott's Executive Order dated April 17, 2020.

Ascension Seton hospitals at most locations will begin scheduled surgeries and procedures, prioritizing those that are more urgent, while simultaneously ensuring continued capability and safety to provide care for COVID-19 patients. Ascension Seton will continue with many safety measures already in place, including visitor restrictions and temperature checks for any individual entering each hospital, and will also require a negative COVID-19 test for any patient scheduled for surgery. Additionally, patients within the Ascension Seton healthcare system who test positive for COVID-19 will be cohorted at Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas and Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin.

"We understand that individuals in our local communities have emergency and essential healthcare needs outside of COVID-19, many of which cannot be delayed or deferred without serious health risks," said Andy Davis, President and CEO of Ascension Texas. "Our return to surgery approach is clinically-led, working with our physicians and our partners at Dell Medical School to implement a strategy that will keep our patients, associates and physicians safe, and is fully in compliance with Governor Abbott's executive order."

As the only dedicated freestanding pediatric facility in the region, Dell Children's Medical Center has been crucial to ensuring the health and safety of pediatric patients during the pandemic. Dell Children's continues to follow the quality, safety and infection prevention protocols implemented across Ascension Seton sites of care to provide uninterrupted care at both the hospital and Dell Children's clinics.

"A number of visits remain critical to a child's care during the pandemic, particularly for children with chronic health conditions," said Christopher M. Born, President of Dell Children's. "We want to encourage you to bring your child in for essential appointments, as recommended by your pediatrician. At Dell Children's, we are working diligently to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect our patients, families, and staff, while providing uninterrupted care for all essential visits, including therapy appointments and emergency healthcare needs."

Returning to surgery

Since March 22, in response to the pandemic, Ascension Seton has provided surgical and procedural care only when it was medically emergent. Ascension Seton will now begin scheduling additional surgeries, prioritizing urgent procedures which have no non-procedural alternatives that meet community medical standards and are not emergent, but cannot be further delayed due to adverse healthcare risks. All patients with a scheduled surgery must test for COVID-19 at least 48 hours prior to their planned surgery date and receive a negative test result. Following the test, patients will be asked to self quarantine until their surgery date.

Additionally, Ascension Seton will continue a number of safety measures already in place, including advanced telehealth capabilities for virtual care, universal masking, hospital visitor restrictions, social distancing, and screening of all persons upon entry, including temperature check for 99.5 degrees. Associates or patients who are symptomatic will be referred for testing. Ascension Seton will also conduct terminal cleaning at each hospital prior to resuming surgeries, and each hospital will have a dedicated, separate entrance for all surgical patients.

"Our recovery phase focuses on providing continued COVID-19 care and surge readiness while supporting our efforts to safely return to serving the community's broader medically necessary healthcare needs," said Dr. Samson Jesudass, Chief Clinical Officer of Ascension Texas. "We know this is a fluid situation, and we are prepared to be flexible and responsive to rapidly evolving conditions in our community and our sites of care."

Cohorting COVID-19 patients

All Ascension Texas 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. COVID-19 testing will continue to be available at all Ascension Texas sites of care.
If a COVID-19 positive patient requires admission, they will be transferred to Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin or Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas. Cohorting patients follows an evidence-based approach that allows Ascension Seton to more safely care for COVID-19 patients and more efficiently utilize our resources, including PPE and staff.

As the only Level I Trauma Center for adults serving Central Texas and beyond, Dell Seton Medical Center has implemented guidelines and protocols to ensure non-COVID patients can still receive the care they may need. Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin serves as the center of excellence for advanced cardiopulmonary care and offers the only adult ECMO program in the region.

Additionally, Ascension Seton remains committed to COVID-19 planning and support through expanded COVID-19 testing at six Central Texas drive-thru testing centers and comprehensive supply monitoring, including personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital beds, laboratory testing kits, ventilators and medication. Ascension Seton will continue to participate in ongoing community surveillance in collaboration with community leaders and local health authorities.

"Our collective efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are working, but the pandemic is not yet over," said Davis. "As we look ahead, we ask not only our staff but our community to remain vigilant in masking, practicing social distancing and continuing to follow local orders to stop the spread of the virus."


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