Novant Health will begin scheduled surgeries; VA hospital plans for restart

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 24, 2020

By Liz Moomey

SALISBURY — After seeing the COVID-19 cases flatten in the previous 14 days, Novant Health, which operates Rowan Medical Center, will resume some non-emergency and non-time sensitive surgeries on May 4.

Novant Health paused these surgeries and clinic appointments on March 18.

Dr. Sidney Fletcher, senior vice president for medical affairs and chief clinical officer, said tier-one cases, which are out-patient procedures, will be rescheduled. That includes orthopedic surgeries, radiologic procedures and cardiac cath lab.

Fletcher said it wasn’t an easy decision for Novant Health to delay surgeries but “did it for the safety and health of our community.” The number of patients who have been impacted in the Novant Health system is in the thousands, he added.

Novant Health has seen a decrease in emergent-type hospital visits, similar to other hospitals across the country, Fletcher said. It is understandable that would-be patients are worried about contracting COVID-19, but hospital workers are concerned about those putting off care, especially for those who suffered from a heart attack or stroke.

“Since the onset of the coronavirus in our communities, some of our patients have delayed seeking care out of an abundance of caution,” said Carl Armato, president and CEO of Novant Health in a news release. “Putting off care indefinitely, is simply not good for our patients — and in some cases, deadly. We urge our community to seek the care they need. At the advice of our physicians, and on behalf of our patients who need care, we have thoughtfully decided to resume some of these services.”

Fletcher said they will continue to monitor the COVID-19 data and follow any potential future surge.

He said the COVID-19 crisis has made Novant Health more flexible.

The hospital also will create or maintain precautions, such as continuing with visitor restrictions, requiring patients to wear a mask, adapting the facilities to create physical barriers and minimizing time in the waiting room.

For clinic appointments, Fletcher said they will continue with virtual appointments, but those with acute care needs will be screened with a questionnaire and temperature checks.

Novant Health plans to do testing in advance of a patient’s scheduled surgery.

Fletcher said social distancing has made a “huge impact” and is the reason Novant Health officials felt they could move to phase one of restarting surgeries. Along with the flattening of COVID-19 cases, the hospital organization has worked hard internally to capitalize on their surge capacity with physical space and resources.

“We look forward to very carefully getting back to some of the work that needs to be done,” Fletcher said.

Novant Health will prioritize rescheduling patients with delayed and postponed appointments and procedures. Patients who fall into this category will receive communication from their healthcare provider.

Meanwhile, the Salisbury VA Medical Center has not determined a date to resume non-urgent, elective procedures but started planning for when these appointments will resume, said Amanda Reilly, public affairs specialist at the Salisbury VA Health Care System.

The VA postponed its non-essential procedures on March 17.

Veterans who had appointments impacted by COVID-19 will be contacted to reschedule once a date is determined. Surgeries will be rescheduled by clinical necessity.

The hospital continues to have emergency services available.