Elective Surgeries and Procedures

Elective Surgeries and Procedures

In mid-March, Virtua Health stopped scheduling all elective surgical procedures in an abundance of caution and with the intent to:

  1. Reduce risk of spreading COVID-19 infections
  2. Preserve anticipated personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing supplies
  3. Create capacity for patients presenting with COVID-19

    We took this action 10 days prior to Gov. Phil Murphy's Executive Order to suspend elective surgeries throughout the state. These actions were necessary to prepare our health system to take care of a tremendous influx of COVID-related hospitalizations, which peaked several weeks ago. 

    We are now seeing a promising decline in virus-related hospitalization. 

    Virtua is now well-positioned to bring our patients back for care that has been delayed. We are honored to continue to be your partner in managing your health. 

    In accordance with guidelines from the New Jersey Department of Health, Virtua Health is rescheduling prior postponed surgeries, procedures, and tests, effective May 26, so that we can support our patients in their journey to address their health care needs.

    We recognize that this news, while promising, may leave you with more questions and lingering apprehension about safety. 

    The thoughtful decision to begin to reopen came only after meeting a number of critical metrics, including the enhanced availability of lab testing and supplies and the sustained reduction of new positive COVID-19 hospitalizations. The re-opening also necessitated new social distancing, safety, and cleaning protocols to be in place, an adequate supply of PPE be on hand, and reasonable triggers be outlined should a spike in new cases or a surge of local hospitalization resurface.

    How Virtua Keeps You Safe

    We know that your health is a priority, and it is important that you access the care you need to address any issues or concerns you are having. We have taken the time to outline how you can access these expanded services and to describe the comprehensive precautions we have put in place to help ensure your safety. While we are offering all services, we are staggering some schedules as appropriate to allow for additional cleaning and to avoid having too many people in the facilities at one time.  

    At Virtua, we take a multilayered approach to your safety while having any procedure, including:

    • Pre-procedural quarantine
    • COVID-19 testing
    • Asking screening questions during your pre-procedural phone call
    • Limiting visitors
    • Repeat screening questions on the day of your procedure
    • Distancing prior to and after your procedure
    • Separate outpatient and inpatient areas for COVID-19 positive and negative patients
    • Disinfecting all patient areas before and after procedures
    • Escorting you to your ride home

    We're Here for You

    Please remember that our hospitals, operating rooms, and emergency rooms have remained open and are always ready and available to provide you with safe emergency and essential care. We continue to offer in-person visits and, when appropriate, video visits with our providers throughout Virtua Health.
     
    Rest assured that we are here for you and your family during this trying time, and as we move forward, we will continue to provide safe counsel and treatment to you in-person and remotely when appropriate.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    Appointment Information for Elective Surgeries and Procedures

    What is an elective surgery or procedure?

    An elective surgery or procedure is one that is planned in advance.  While it may not be urgent, it is not necessarily optional.  This includes a wide range of procedures, surgeries and imaging tests. Your doctor can advise you on what is considered elective. Remember, a procedure that may have been safe to put off for several weeks, may now have more urgency to it.


    What kinds of elective surgeries and procedures are available?

    Our elective surgeries and procedures include these areas:

    • Bariatric (Weight Loss) Surgery
    • Breast Surgery 
    • Cardiac Surgery
    • Colorectal Surgery
    • Gastroenterology
    • General Surgery
    • Gynecology
    • Neurosurgery
    • Orthopedic Surgery
    • Pain Management
    • Spine Surgery
    • Urology
    • Foot & Ankle Surgery
    • Hand Surgery

    How can I make an appointment for an elective surgery or procedure?


    If your surgery or procedure was postponed:
    Your physician and his or her office staff will proactively contact you. You may also call your doctor’s office or send a message via MyChart (if you have MyChart access) to find out when your procedure can be re-scheduled.  If you have developed symptoms or your condition has worsened in any way, please do not hesitate to call your doctor and inform them of these changes right away.

    If you want to schedule a new surgery or procedure:
    Please call us at 888-VIRTUA-3 (888-847-8823) to schedule an appointment with a specialist or directly with the service you are seeking. 

    What criteria does Virtua use to prioritize which types of patients/procedures should come in?

    We are prioritizing outpatient surgeries and procedures for patients based on a variety of factors, including medical condition, urgency and risk for disease progression. 


    Our decisions on how quickly to expand services are guided by the need to keep patients, clinicians and staff members safe while also monitoring the virus’s continued presence in our community and caring for patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals. We are focused on getting people the care they need while ensuring the safety of everyone. 


    Are you offering routine screenings for mammograms, etc.?

    Call 888-Virtua-3 (888-847-8823) for scheduling or you can self-schedule using MyChart.

    COVID-19 Safety Precautions

    What safety precautions are you taking to make sure the environment is safe and clean for me?
    Your health and well-being are our very highest priorities. At Virtua Health, our infection prevention specialists are leaders in providing guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and we take infection prevention very seriously throughout our facilities. In addition, we have carefully planned and taken extra precautions to help ensure that we are doing everything we can to minimize any risk to our patients and staff members.

    Our medical staff works closely with our infection control and clinical quality leaders to ensure we observe the highest levels of safety.  We combine this knowledge with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Jersey Department of Health.

    We are implementing the following safety guidelines:

    We are testing and screening.

     

    • Our pre-screening and COVID-19 testing measures are designed to identify anyone who has COVID-19 or is suspected to have COVID-19 before their arrival for a procedure or surgery.
    • All patients are instructed to self-quarantine at home prior to their invasive procedures
    • All patients are tested for COVID-19 within 96 hours of their procedure. If they test positive, the procedure will be rescheduled.
    • All staff members and physicians self screen daily. They do not come to work if there is any sign of symptoms related to COVID-19.
    • All patients are screened upon arrival, either at the building entrance or when entering the service area.
    • We will immediately separate anyone in the facility who we believe may have COVID-19 before they come into contact with other patients, and then we will test for it.

    We require universal masking and wear appropriate protective equipment.

    • All staff members and patients/care partners must wear masks in the facility
    • All surgical staff wear appropriate personal protective equipment including face masks, shields and gloves during every procedure.
    • Contactless check in measures are in place wherever possible so patients reduce contact with surfaces and staff at check in and check out.

    We are extremely focused on keeping our facilities clean.

    • Surfaces and equipment are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, using products that are effective against a range of germs including the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. 
    • We clean our waiting rooms and high-touch areas like rest rooms, elevators, door handles frequently.
    • Our exam rooms and operating rooms are cleaned and disinfected frequently, including before and after each patient, according to the guidelines of our infection prevention experts and the CDC. Deep cleaning occurs every night.
    • Hand sanitizer is always available.
    • Our doctors, nurses and all medical staff members sanitize or wash their hands before and after interacting with patients.

    We are minimizing the number of people at the facility and practicing social distancing.

    • We are limiting the number of procedures we schedule to reduce the number of people in our facilities.
    • Our waiting room chairs are spaced 6 feet apart, or restricted in some way to minimize close contact with others. 
    • The number of staff members in exam rooms and operating rooms is limited, and only those essential to your care are present. We maintain at least 6 feet between people except during medical care activities.
    • No visitors may accompany patients into the hospital (except one parent or guardian for pediatrics). 
      • When ready to leave, we will safely escort patients to the car of the person picking them up. The driver must wear a mask.

    How is Virtua Health keeping its waiting rooms, exam rooms and equipment clean and allowing for social distancing?
    We clean and disinfect our facilities and environmental surfaces frequently, and our exam and operating rooms after each patient. We follow the guidelines of our infection prevention experts and the CDC. 

    In our waiting rooms and throughout our facilities, we have decals on the floor indicating where you should stand to keep yourself distant from others. Wherever appropriate, chairs in our waiting rooms are separated to maintain proper social distancing, and/or we have limited the number of patients allowed in the waiting room.

    What is Virtua Health doing to make sure I do not come into contact with someone who has COVID-19?
    Our pre-screening and COVID-19 testing measures are designed to identify anyone who has or is suspected to have COVID-19 before their arrival for surgery or a procedure. If we believe a person in our hospital may have COVID-19, we will separate them immediately before they come into contact with other patients, and then test them for COVID-19.

    What happens if a person with COVID- 19 needs emergency surgery?
    We have a dedicated OR at each of our facilities just for patients who have tested positive or have symptoms of COVID-19. Precautions include a separate area where patients are prepped and recover and even a separate elevator and pathway to their room to minimize any exposure. These areas, like all areas, are specially cleaned in between each case

    How does Virtua Health make sure nurses, doctors and staff members aren’t sick?
    All colleagues at Virtua Health answer COVID-19 screening questions every day and attest that they do not have symptoms consistent with possible COVID-19 infection.

    Anyone who reports symptoms is instructed to leave work immediately and report those symptoms to Virtua Health’s Occupational Health team so that they can be evaluated and tested for COVID-19 if needed. Staff are not allowed to work if they have symptoms, and they must be cleared by Occupational Health before returning to work.

    What precautions should I take before my surgery or procedure to make sure I do not get COVID-19? 


    Instructions for Patients Undergoing Procedures at Virtua Hospitals

    1. You should plan to self-quarantine at home as instructed by your surgeon, prior to your procedure. You are required to obtain your Covid-19 test 3 days prior to your procedure.
    2. Virtua will ask all patients to quarantine at home for at least 3 days prior to their elective procedures. For most patients this quarantine will begin immediately after their COVID-19 testing. We will further recommend that patients optimally quarantine for a full eight days pre-procedure if at all possible, recognizing that patients will need to leave their homes to be tested or to have other medical treatments, such as dialysis.
    3. Wear either a cloth or surgical mask when entering the hospital.
    4. Visitors and families are not permitted to enter the hospitals, so please plan to enter unaccompanied. Exceptions to this are pediatric patients and those with special needs.
    5. Bring with you, in writing, the name and telephone number of your ride home.
    6. You will be screened at the hospital for any of the following symptoms: temperature reaching 100 degrees, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a new cough, sore throat, chills, muscle pains, or a new loss of taste or smell. Your procedure may need to be postponed if you have these symptoms. If you develop any of these symptoms while in your pre-procedure quarantine, please report them to your doctor.

    Preparing for My Appointment, Surgery, or Procedure

    In order to help ensure the safety of our patients and staff members, we have implemented procedures to include screening for COVID-19 and added safety measures. Please read this information carefully before your appointment.

    Before Your Procedure

    • All patients are required to undergo time-sensitive COVID-19 testing within 3 days of their procedures. Your doctor’s office will determine when and where you will be tested, depending on when and where your procedure is scheduled.
    • Over the phone, we will also review preoperative instructions for your surgery or procedure. We will email or text you further instructions as appropriate
    • You will also be screened by answering the following questions: 
      • Do you have temperature reaching 100 degrees, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, a new cough, sore throat, chills, muscle pains, or a new loss of taste or smell?
      • Does anyone in your house have COVID-19 or have you come in contact within 14 days with someone you know has COVID-19?
    • We will explain that, for the safety of you and our staff, we currently do not allow any visitors into our hospitals. The only exception is for pediatric procedures — one parent or guardian may accompany a child.
    • You will be given a phone number for follow-up in the event you have questions about your appointment.
    • We will verify your COVID-19 test result prior to your procedure. 
    • If you test positive for COVID-19, we will call you, reschedule your procedure and discuss next steps.

    Day of Your Appointment

    • In your pre-procedure call you will be instructed where to enter the building. 
    • No visitors may accompany patients into the hospital. This visitor policy helps prevent the spread of COVID-19 as well as preserve personal protective equipment for medical staff.
    • You must wear a facemask or covering when entering our hospitals. If you don’t have a facemask, we will provide one for you. We cannot allow you to enter our care facility without a mask. 
    • When you enter our facility or office, you will be screened by answering questions about symptoms and exposure to people with COVID-19 within 14 days.
    • We will have hand sanitizer stations for you to use.
    • We are practicing social distancing, so you will notice that chairs in the waiting room are separated or taped off. We will also limit the number of people in the waiting areas as well as the number of staff members in treatment rooms.

    Testing for COVID-19
    A member of our team will call you before your surgery or procedure to schedule a COVID-19 test. Your test will be scheduled 3 days before your procedure or surgery. We will verify your COVID-19 test result before your procedure. If you test positive for COVID-19, we will call you, reschedule your procedure and discuss next steps

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