May 1, 2020

Dr. Jeff Balser on a careful approach to restarting elective services

As public officials begin to lift restrictions due to COVID-19, I want to spend a few minutes today talking about our next steps at VUMC.

Hi, everyone.

As public officials begin to lift restrictions due to COVID-19, I want to spend a few minutes today talking about our next steps at VUMC.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

Today, May 1, hospitals across Tennessee are restarting elective care, including both outpatient visits and surgical procedures. Remember, “elective” simply means scheduled — it does not mean “unnecessary.” For our patients, and for all of us, a great deal of the elective care we deliver is vital to health and well-being.

At VUMC, we are taking a careful approach in restarting elective care. As always, our No. 1 priority is safety — for you and for our patients. To help us as we begin to see more patients, we will follow a comprehensive set of safety practices that follow, and in many cases exceed, government standards.

Across all facilities, we will continue daily temperature checks — and in addition, we’ve instituted symptom screening for employees, visitors and patients. We are also requiring everyone to wear a mask in clinical care environments and public areas, including hallways, lobbies, meeting rooms and food service areas.

To add further protection, we will be contacting patients before their scheduled appointments to check on whether they are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. And we will be testing patients for the virus before they undergo many kinds of procedures — such as surgeries that require general anesthesia.

It’s important to remember that COVID-19 isn’t the only threat to health and well-being. Many other illnesses have tragic consequences. Years of experience have shown we can save lives with good preventive care and early treatment of conditions — before they worsen.

Back in February, we paused elective care in order to ensure we could handle a large surge of patients. Today, and for several weeks, the number of COVID cases in our hospitals has remained steady. So, we’ve been able to bolster our stores of testing reagents, PPE and other supplies we use to reduce infection risk.

For everyone working in non-clinical areas, we are working closely with Nashville officials and we will follow the city’s roadmap. So for now, if you are not working in patient care areas and you are currently working from home, continue to do so.

Particularly now, we are all seen as community leaders. So it is vital that we set an example when we are in public spaces by wearing cloth masks and maintaining physical distancing.

We are all learning to live our lives in a COVID-19 world. I admire the many ways you are adapting and have come together. Please continue to be safe, and thank you for all that you do.

We’ll talk again soon.