BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Some hospitals in the U.S. are already canceling or postponing elective medical appointments and procedures as they prepare for the possibility of a surge in COVID-19 patients.
In other instances, hospitals say that patients have requested a delay in care over their own concerns about the coronavirus.
Here’s what we know about Birmingham area hospitals so far:
- Children’s of Alabama: Elective surgeries are still on as scheduled
- UAB: No decision has been made to cancel elective surgeries. If and when it is, we will notify our patients and the media as quickly as possible.
- Birmingham VA Medical Center: Non-urgent, elective procedures will cease by Wednesday, March 18 and resume as soon as it is possible.
Statement from Birmingham VA:
"Out of an abundance of caution, the medical center will cease non-urgent elective procedures starting Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Veterans also have the option to schedule an appointment with a non-VA community care provider at VA’s expense.
This action will reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and ICU use and will free up resources to address the needs of Veterans under evaluation and diagnosed with COVID-19. Urgent and emergent surgeries will continue.
To date, the Birmingham VA Health Care System has not encountered anyone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The facility is following CDC guidelines for intake precautions.
To minimize risk for employees and Veterans, everyone who enters the Birmingham VA Health Care System will be pre-screened. This may lengthen entry times, so patients are advised to allow for that when arriving for their appointments.
The screening consists of three questions:
1. Do you have a fever or worsening cough or shortness of breath or flu-like symptoms?
2. Have you or a close contact traveled to an area with widespread or sustained community transmission of COVID-19 within 14 days of symptom onset?
3. Have you been in close contact with someone, including health care workers, confirmed to have COVID-19?
Per CDC guidance and VA protocols, individuals known to be at risk for a COVID-19 infection are immediately isolated to prevent potential spread to others.
Veterans and staff are encouraged to take everyday preventive actions to avoid being exposed to the virus:
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
• Stay home if you are sick or becoming sick.
• Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
• If you have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with symptoms, call the VA before going to the facility."
Full Statement from Birmingham VA Health Care System Director Stacy Vasquez:
“The Birmingham VA Health Care System (BVAHCS) is placing the safety of our Veterans and employees as our highest priority as we address the current outbreak of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States. While urgent and emergent cases will continue, the medical center will cease non-urgent elective procedures no later than Wednesday, March 18, 2020. This action will reduce unnecessary hospitalizations and ICU use and will free up resources to address the increasing number of Veterans under evaluation and diagnosed with COVID-19. Grandview Medical Center: Elective surgeries are still on as scheduled.”
Full statement from Grandview:
“At Grandview Medical Center, we continue to assess our daily patient procedural schedules. We are in constant communication with our medical leadership and medical staff to assess individual patient risk factors and the urgency of each scheduled surgery. The decision about whether to have surgery is one to be made between the physician and the patient. At this time, we will continue to provide elective procedural services, but we also acknowledge this is a fluid, day-by-day situation and we will continue to evaluate any need for changes to our surgical schedules and services throughout the week.”