Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) has announced plans to gradually resume scheduled surgeries and procedures.
According to a release on Tuesday, Jun. 2, 2020, KHSC will prioritize surgeries and procedures based on various criteria, including the condition of patients, risks associated with delaying treatment, and the availability of needed resources and medications. Postoperative care needs like primary care and home-and-community care will also be considerations, the statement reads.
“For many, one of the most difficult parts of the patient journey is the time waiting for care, and patients’ and families’ cooperation and patience during this difficult time has been extraordinary,” said Kerry Stewart, chair of the KHSC Patient and Family Advisory Council, in a statement.
“Patients have been engaged in KHSC’s plan to gradually and carefully ramp up services, and I want to assure patients that the plan has ethics and principles as its foundation,” she said.
Scheduled surgeries and procedural work have been significantly reduced since a directive from the province on Sunday, Mar. 15, 2020 regarding the COVID-19 pandemic. Ontario’s Ministry of Health released guidelines to help hospitals plan the gradual resumption of scheduled surgeries and procedures on Thursday, May 7, 2020. Ontario Health’s approval of the south east’s regional resumption plan preceded today’s announcement.
“Delaying scheduled surgeries was one of the toughest decisions we had to make as we responded to the growing threat of COVID-19,” said Minister Elliott as provincial guidelines were released earlier this month. “However, it was imperative to ensure our readiness to protect the health and well-being of Ontarians as we planned for a worst-case scenario. Due to the collective efforts of everyone to stop the spread of this virus, we are now in a position where we can begin to plan for ramping up surgeries.”
KHSC reports currently meeting all of the criteria the provincial government included in the framework, while maintaining capacity to respond to COVID-19 cases. Among other requirements, KHSC reports having an adequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), is part of a plan to be able to make 15 per cent of intensive care and medicine unit beds in the region available for COVID-19 patients, and has “a stable COVID-19 caseload.”
At the time of reporting, KHSC has no admitted patients receiving care for COVID-19.
“We are fortunate to be in a position to add to the urgent, time-sensitive care we’ve continued to provide during this first wave of the pandemic,” said Dr. David Pichora, KHSC president and CEO. “We have worked with our partners across the health system to create a regional plan that provides equitable access to regularly-scheduled surgeries for patients throughout southeastern Ontario and that minimizes the impact of geographical differences in COVID-19 case numbers, capacity and resources.”
KHSC acknowledged that public health experts in Ontario continue to caution against the ongoing risk of potential surges in community or congregate settings. Because of this, part of the resumption plan includes a strategy for ramping down less-urgent activity again, in order to respond quickly to a surge in COVID-19 patients.
“In order to maintain COVID-19 preparedness, we will be reviewing and reconfirming our plan on a weekly basis within the organization and regionally with our partners,” said Dr. Pichora. “Every week, we’ll have to assess our situation and find the right balance that will enable us to care for our most vulnerable patients.”
Increased family presence on-site
KHSC is also increasing family presence at its Kingston General Hospital site by asking admitted patients to choose one family member to be their designated “care partner” and visit them on-site. Patients must keep the same person for the duration of their hospital stays, and that person must submit to screening.
KHCS said they are awaiting the next set of provincial guidelines before finalizing its plans to increase in-person clinic visits.
“At this time, no ramp up of ambulatory services will take place,” the statement read.
KHSC wishes to remind the community that hospital sites are safe environments in which to receive care.
“Infection, prevention and control measures are in place to protect our staff and patients. People should continue to follow public health advice, such as keep at least two meters from others outside your household; wash your hands regularly; and sneeze and cough into your sleeve and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.”