Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Hartford HealthCare has never closed. But to help contain the spread of the virus, it suspended nonessential services, procedures and testing.
Gradually, those services are phasing in at Hartford HealthCare hospitals, surgery centers, primary care offices, health centers and other facilities (above, the Bone & Joint Institute at Hartford Hospital) with a host of extra precautions to ensure the ongoing safety of patients and staff.
“We have looked at this from all angles and we will begin to scale up gradually,” said Dr. Ajay Kumar, HHC’s chief clinical officer. “We will ramp up in a way that is thoughtful and methodical.”
As the system begins scheduling nonessential services again, these precautions are in place:
- Screenings for Hartford HealthCare employees and patients. Throughout the pandemic, HHC has screened all colleagues at the start of their shifts and that practice will continue. In addition, patients coming in for surgical procedures will answer COVID-19 screening questions before their procedure to assess if they’ve been exposed to the virus. If the assessment identifies any recent COVID-19 exposure, the procedure may be postponed.
- Increased cleaning. All high-touch surface areas – counters, bedside tables, call bell, bed rails – will be cleaned more often with disinfectants approved by the Environmental Protection Agency. Rooms are cleaned and disinfected between patients, and all equipment, including wheelchairs and blood pressure cuffs, are cleaned after each use.
- Pre-surgical patient testing. Patients must undergo pre-surgical testing four to five days before their procedure, and are then asked to self-quarantine until the date of their procedure.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE). Anyone entering a HHC facility must wear a mask according to a policy instituted early in the pandemic. The system will give masks to anyone who doesn’t have one. Employees will continue to don PPE appropriate to the care they are providing.
- Hand hygiene stations. Hand hygiene is an important way to protect yourself against COVID-19 and other bacteria. We’ve created sanitizing stations with alcohol-based, germ-killing products.
- Surgical visitor policy. Hospital visitors are still not allowed, but patients can bring one escort with them. Both will be screened and have their temperatures checked when they enter an HHC facility. If both screen negative, they can enter wearing masks. The escort will wait in a waiting area that was modified to ensure safety.
- Patient communications. Physician offices have updated packages of information to give patients coming in for procedures or appointments. These include details about testing, pre-operative FAQs, safety details and more.
“Safety is at the core of every decision and every action we undertake,” Dr. Kumar said. “Our collective commitment to do the safe thing, the best thing, the caring thing and the right thing – our system values – has carried us far. It will also carry us through and beyond this next phase of COVID-19 preparation if we remain vigilant.”
He added that as the world moves forward, healthcare systems like HHC must focus on:
- Infection prevention.
- Quality and safety.
- Identifying and sharing lessons.
- Accommodating patients who have delayed their care.
Any updates affecting patients and visitors will be posted to HartfordHealthCare.org.
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