No Time to Delay

Editor’s Note: In a spring press briefing for local and national media, Warner Thomas, president and CEO of Ochsner Health echoed a concern that many hospital and health system leaders no doubt shared. It wasn’t about COVID-19. It was the residual effect of what COVID-19 has done to public health in the United States – namely, the delay of medical care.

Many people with medical issues were fearful to leave their house. “That has significant implications,” said Thomas. “We’ve heard of people who have had strokes who delayed care out of fear. Minor heart attacks as delayed care. People with broken hips that have delayed care for multiple days. That is not a good situation.”

At Piedmont Hospital’s ER in Atlanta, Georgia, on some days there were more physicians than patients, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Patients needing medical care for things unrelated to COVID-19 were afraid to go to the hospital or physician’s office for treatment.

“You’re thinking, where are all of the patients?” Dr. Sean Sue told the AJC. “Where are the patients having heart attacks, strokes, diabetic ketoacidosis?”

Indeed, the coming weeks and months will resemble a balancing act of preparedness and vigilance for COVID-19 cases, with an urgency in ramping back up normal care and elective surgeries that had been put off due to the pandemic.

Testing for COVID-19 will be key. Hospitals and health systems are making testing a routine part of the screening process for patients and employees, not just for the ER, but nearly every place where care is delivered. “If you come into one of our facilities you are going to be tested, whether you come in to be admitted, or have a procedure,” said Dr. Robert Hart, chief medical officer, Ochsner Health.

To ensure patients can have elective surgeries as soon as safely possible, a roadmap to guide readiness, prioritization and scheduling was developed by the American College of Surgeons (ACS), American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA), Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN) and American Hospital Association (AHA). The groups joined the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and praised their thoughtful tiered approach to postponing elective procedures, ranging from cancer biopsies to joint replacements that could wait without putting patients at risk. Readiness for resuming these procedures will vary by geographic location depending on local COVID-19 activity and response resources. A joint statement, developed by ACS, ASA, AORN and AHA, provided key principles and considerations to guide health care professionals and organizations regarding when and how to do so safely.

Meanwhile, supply chain leaders will have to continue to navigate possible product disruptions. Allocation from traditional suppliers and sourcing from new ones are part of the new normal. There is no way around the current challenges, according to supply chain leaders JHC spoke to amid the pandemic. Only through. “You’re going to have to really sort through it,” said Ed Hardin, vice president, supply chain, Froedtert Health. “Roll up your sleeves and vet these guys.”