This week, Intermountain Healthcare and other Utah health systems began transitioning to updated guidelines for performing elective surgeries and procedures that are consistent with revised recommendations from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, national surgical societies, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert, who announced the go-ahead for these procedures on April 21.
Utah has shared four COVID-19 risk categories:
- Red – means high risk and is the level of guidance Utah is in right now.
- Orange – means a moderate risk for everyone, but high-risk individuals.
- Yellow – means low risk for everyone, but high-risk individuals.
- Green – means a new normal risk for everyone, but high-risk individuals.
Utah is moving this week from the highest-risk, RED category, to the moderate-risk, ORANGE category. Under the ORANGE category, Utah hospitals will continue to perform surgeries for emergency care, and medically-necessary, time-sensitive cases.
Intermountain is also adding ambulatory procedures (no overnight stay) for patients with surgical treatment needs as determined by their physician and hospitals, and who have a low risk for COVID-19 complications.
There are types of surgeries and procedures that will still be postponed
At this time, based on state and national guidelines, Intermountain will continue to postpone surgeries and procedures:
- Requiring an admission to a hospital or step-down facility and are not time-sensitive
- For COVID-19 positive patients whose surgical needs are not emergent
- Involving patients at greater risk for more severe COVID-19 illness
Factors associated with patients at higher risk to develop severe COVID-19 illness when exposed to coronavirus include people over 65 years of age, lung disease, immunosuppression, obesity, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, and cardiovascular issues.
Prioritization of surgeries and procedures
Intermountain’s surgical and clinical leaders will continue to work with individual physicians to evaluate and schedule those cases for patients that are now appropriate per the guidance from CMS, the Utah Department of Health, and the Utah Hospital Association.
Cases that meet the guidelines will proceed because hospitals have adequate supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), medications, and equipment.
If supply chains become strained, and other variables escalate including increased hospitalizations, then the state may return the COVID-19 risk category to RED. Patients and caregivers will also need to follow COVID-19 testing protocols for these surgeries and procedures.
As Intermountain Healthcare caregivers continue to battle this pandemic, the ongoing flexibility and commitment of the community to flatten the curve will be vital.
“We will continue preparing for a potential surge, with real-time monitoring of the COVID-19 risk in the community in collaboration with the Utah Department of Health, the Utah Hospital Association, and other health systems in the state. We will align and adjust our plans accordingly,” said Rob Ferguson, MD, a surgical leader from Intermountain.
“While these changes may create challenging situations for some people, it is a necessary and appropriate step given the anticipated growth in the number of Utah cases of COVID-19. We appreciate everyone’s patience during this time that we’re working to ensure the safety of our patients, caregivers, and community,” added Dr. Ferguson.
For more information please visit Intermountain Healthcare.
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