Southeast Georgia Health System Resumes Elective Surgeries
Southeast Georgia Health System resumed elective outpatient surgeries on May 4; elective inpatient surgeries will resume on May 11. The services are subject to specific safety guidelines and patients must test negative for COVID-19 within four days of their procedure.
“Over the last several weeks, we have developed effective and efficient operations to manage our COVID-19 patients,” says Vincent K. Arlauskas, M.D., chief, Department of Surgery. “Those factors, along with COVID-19 cases stabilizing in our region, informed our decision to resume elective surgeries. This was a data-driven decision made by consulting with several hospital departments, including: Critical Care, Infectious Disease, Anesthesiology, Surgery Ob/Gyn, Pathology and Hospital Medicine. We are pleased to offer surgical care again, and are doing so with our full focus on patient and staff safety.”
On March 18, 2020, the Health System discontinued elective procedures to prepare for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients. The move was also deemed necessary to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilator capacity, blood supplies, medications and supplies to prepare for these patients.
As the COVID-19 situation emerged, the Health System established safety protocols. “We are screening everyone entering the facility for coronavirus symptoms,” says Michael D. Scherneck, president & CEO, Southeast Georgia Health System. “In addition, we require face masks, isolate possible COVID patients from other patients, limit visitors, actively encourage social distancing and diligently clean and disinfect our facilities.”
Patients planning to receive elective surgery will be tested for COVID-19 within four days of surgery. If the test result is positive, the surgery will be rescheduled for a future date. Those with a negative test result can keep their surgical appointment, but will be screened again for signs and symptoms of illness prior to their procedure.
The Health System’s ability to continue elective surgeries will depend on a variety of factors, according to Scherneck. “We have taken exhaustive measures to ensure that we can offer surgical services safely. We’re moving in the right direction, but if an increase in COVID-19 patients necessitates a return to crisis level care, we will temporarily restrict surgical services again. The entire process is being closely monitored by medical leadership.”
While acknowledging that COVID-19 requires health care facilities to maintain extreme vigilance for the foreseeable future, Arlauskas believes the Health System is up to the challenge. “Patient and staff safety is our priority. COVID-19 taught us the importance of resilience, flexibility and innovation. In the long term, I believe we are stronger as a result of the lessons learned. We appreciate the public’s patience as our Surgical Services teams roll out this process.”
For more information about Surgical Services at Southeast Georgia Health System, please visit https://www.sghs.org/Services/Surgery.aspx.
About Southeast Georgia Health System
Southeast Georgia Health System is a not-for-profit health system comprised of two acute care hospitals, two long term care facilities, three immediate care centers, five family medicine centers and numerous employed physician practices. The Health System has multiple outpatient specialty care centers, including the only CyberKnife® M6 Program in Georgia, and a Cancer Care Center accredited by the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. The Health System is part of Coastal Community Health, a regional affiliation between Baptist Health and Southeast Georgia Health System forming a highly integrated hospital network focused on significant initiatives designed to enhance the quality and value of care provided to our contiguous communities. For more information, visit sghs.org.