Maintaining Essential Surgical Operations in Pandemic

Aug. 13, 2020

The American Hospital Association (AHA) and three other national organizations have issued a joint statement to provide a roadmap for safely managing surgical patients during a time when many states are seeing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases.

The “Joint Statement: Roadmap for Maintaining Essential Surgery During COVID-19 Pandemic” includes several key principles and considerations:

  • Facilities should engage in regional cooperation to address capacity and new patient needs to ensure facilities have appropriate number of intensive care unit (ICU) and non-ICU beds, personal protective equipment (PPE), testing reagents and supplies, ventilators and trained staff to treat all non-elective patients without resorting to a crisis standard of care. Daily forecasting of COVID-19 demand on all resources shall be the baseline for determining the ability to add non-COVID-19 cases.   
  • Hospitals, medical professional societies, and government agencies should work together to ensure adequate supplies of vital equipment and medications.   
  • Facilities should use available testing to protect staff and patient safety and should implement a policy addressing requirements and frequency for patient and staff testing in accordance with current CDC guidelines.   
  • Facilities should not provide non-emergent essential surgical services unless they have adequate PPE and medical surgical supplies appropriate to the number and type of procedures to be performed.   
  • Facilities should establish a case prioritization policy committee consisting of surgery, anesthesia and nursing leadership to develop a case prioritization strategy appropriate to the immediate patient needs.   
  • Facilities should adopt policies addressing care issues specific to COVID-19 and the postponement of surgical scheduling.   
  • Facilities should reevaluate and reassess policies and procedures frequently, based on COVID-19 related data, resources, testing and other clinical information.   
  • Facilities should have and implement a face covering and social distancing policy for staff, patients, and patient visitors in non-restricted areas in the facility which meets current local and national recommendations for community isolation practices.

The AHA joined with the American College of Surgeons, American Society of Anesthesiologists and Association of periOperative Registered Nurses in issuing the joint statement to ensure healthcare organizations, physicians and nurses remain prepared to meet the demands to care for patients who undergo recommended essential operations as healthcare facilities may be stressed by new influxes of COVID-19 patients.