Yampa Valley Medical Center resumes more medically necessary surgeries and procedures
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center is resuming more surgeries and procedures deemed medically necessary — many of which had been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The hospital has continued performing any surgeries considered urgent or emergent throughout the pandemic. Those would continue even in the event of a surge, which Steamboat’s hospital has never experienced to this point.
Those cases considered medically necessary but not urgent or emergent began again taking place on April 27.
Overall, the hospital operating room saw about half the volume of cases in March 2020 as March of 2019, according to Sarah Kerrigan, a registered nurse and operating room manager. In April, there were only about one third as many cases as April 2019.
The key point to resuming, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Laura Sehnert, is moving forward slowly and safely and prioritizing those with the most urgent medical needs.
Also of utmost importance, Sehnert said, is the continual evaluation to ensure the hospital has adequate supplies of personal protective equipment, sufficient staffing and enough available beds.
Another huge priority is in ensuring patients the hospital environment is completely safe in which to be, she said. Every patient coming in will be screened for COVID-19, Sehnert said. Screenings will usually take place two or three days prior to surgery, and incoming patients will be asked to self-isolate as much as possible for about seven days in advance of their surgeries.
Everyone will wear masks, and visitor restrictions will continue. Each patient will be allowed one support visitor; however, no visitors with respiratory symptoms will be permitted in the hospital.
There is also a designated operating room for patients with COVID-19, whether or not their procedure is related to having the virus.
The safety of the entire community remains a top priority as they allow in more patients, Sehnert emphasized.
There continues to be increased sanitizing of high-touch surfaces, and the spacing out of furniture and other infrastructure adjustments to allow for patients and staff to be more physically distanced when possible.
“The goal is to make this one of the safest places to be,” said Kerrigan.
If at any point there is a rise in COVID-19 cases in the community, or if they are experiencing a decrease in supplies or staffing, Sehnert said they will reevaluate and may again reduce procedures.
With each new or rescheduled case, there is a lot to consider in addition to the level of medical urgency, she explained, including how long a patient may require hospitalization and rehabilitation.
The decisions are made in collaboration with surgeons, primary care providers and patients. If someone were awaiting a knee replacement, their level of pain would be part of the consideration in terms of prioritization, Sehnert said.
Some of the procedures they are resuming include things like hysterectomies, knee and shoulder scopes, ACL repairs, joint replacements, ear tube surgeries, tonsillectomies and colonoscopies.
Some of the procedures that never stopped, and won’t ever stop, include appendectomies and anything else that would be considered a life- or limb-threatening injury or illness.
Oncology treatment at the Jan Bishop Cancer Center that is time sensitive and regimented has continued throughout the pandemic.
“For patients who are delaying care,” said Kerrigan, “we want the community to know we are doing everything possible to ensure their safety and ensure they can seek care when they need to.”
In being able to avoid anything even close to an overwhelming of health care resources in Routt County — at least for now — Sehnert commends the work done by the entire community in following recommendations and rules from the local and state health agencies.
She also attributes the positive current status to being part of the UCHealth system, which has given the Yampa Valley Medical Center access to additional capacity and resources.
“We feel we are at a very good place,” Sehnert said, in terms of capacity and supplies. “It is safe to get medical care now.”
If patients have delayed procedures and have questions about rescheduling — or have new issues — Sehnert recommends they contact their surgeon or primary care provider.
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