St. Charles Parish Hospital, in accordance with its Safe to Reopen Plans, has resumed high-priority elective procedures and is planning to welcome patients back into its clinics later this month.
Elective procedures were halted in March amid coronavirus-related precautions aimed to conserve medical equipment and prioritize the time of providers. Terrell Neal, St. Charles Parish Hospital CEO, said providers postponed a procedure if the procedures could wait and if that postponement wouldn’t pose any harm to the patient.
Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said providers could start performing some elective procedures starting April 27.
“We’re now asking providers to reevaluate the delayed patients and see if it is something that can wait longer or if it is something that needs to be done more timely,” Neal said.
Safe to Reopen Plans
Once Edwards’ Stay-At-Home Order is lifted – currently scheduled for May 15 – the hospital will begin welcoming patients back into its clinics for important, routine doctor’s appointments and check-ups.
The hospital is taking extra precautions to keep visits safe and convenient, and some enhancements to the hospital and affiliate clinics include mobile check-in, temperature check, personal protective equipment, social distancing, increased sanitation and virtual visits.
“The community support for our facility has continued to be amazing,” Neal said. “I’m excited about our team’s ability to ensure we have a safe and clean environment.”
Mobile check-in will be available at many locations, Neal said, which will allow patients to check in from their vehicle and be notified via text when their provider is available.
All patients, visitors and employees will continue to go through a temperature check prior to entering facilities, and anyone who enters Ochsner facilities will be provided a face mask. Hand sanitation stations are readily available throughout facilities, and Neal said social distancing and increased sanitation practices are a priority at all of facilities.
Patients who visit offices and the hospital will have a different experience than when they visited pre-pandemic, Neal said. Fewer chairs in the waiting room, for example, will allow for adequate space in between patients.
“It’ll be a slightly different experience,” he said, “but we look forward to taking care of you.”
Dr. Victoria Smith, associate medical director for SCPH, said many people have ignored their chronic medical conditions because of the pandemic.
“Nationwide, there are more people dying at home from heart attacks and strokes because of their fear to go into emergency rooms and clinics,” she said. “We are going to do everything we can to keep you safe … we are ready to welcome you back and take care of you.”
Smith said it is imperative that patients who suffer from chronic conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease resume regular visits with their doctors to ensure their optimal health and safety.
Virtual visits, which have gained popularity out of necessity during the pandemic, will continue to be available to patients for minor illness or to be used on conjunction with face-to-face visits for patients requiring more in-depth care, Smith said.
COVID-19 Rapid Tests
SCPH, like all Ochsner facilities, will continue to test every patient who checks into the hospital for COVID-19. This includes anyone receiving non-elective surgery and anyone staying overnight in the hospital.
Smith said the testing plan would remain in effect for the foreseeable future.
“We will be continuing to test people,” she said. “A lot of that is to make we can protect our staff and patients.”
Neal said the hospital would not typically test a patient who would be discharged, giving the example of someone who goes to the emergency room for a sprained ankle but returns home and does not require any in-patient services.
“Any patient coming in – regardless of symptoms but ill enough to be admitted – will be tested,” he said.
Last week, SCPH began to offer voluntary antibody testing to its employees and providers. Officials said testing is based upon employees’ location, job and risk of exposure.
Smith said the antibody test can determine if a person’s immune system has created antibodies in response to COVID-19. Presence of the antibody indicates the individual has been infected with COVID-19, but this test does not prove immunity from future infection.
Because this virus is new and there are still many unknowns, Smith said there is not enough information at this time to determine what defines COVID-19 immunity and how long immunity may last.
This COVID-19 antibody test is a simple blood draw with anticipated results within 24-36 hours of collection, depending on the test location.
Smith said the hospital plans to offer the test to patients and the community in the future.