Frequently asked questions on scheduled surgeries

How did you decide to proceed with elective surgeries?

With each dynamic shift of the COVID-19 pandemic, the nation and its local and federal governments have moved closer to reopening the industries affected by this global event, including healthcare services. HCA Healthcare’s strategies across the organization have been focused on planning and preparing to reinitiate routine patient care services, including procedures and surgeries. Elective procedures are not the equivalent of “optional” procedures that can be delayed indefinitely. Elective procedures are those that can be scheduled. Defined by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), they have been classified within tiers of urgency and acuity, allowing us to prioritize services as we take a measured approach to this transition. Deferring important medical procedures can result in patients unnecessarily suffering at home, and subsequently seeking care only when their conditions have escalated to a serious state. As we continue to monitor the trajectory of the COVID-19 pandemic, HCA Healthcare has begun to thoughtfully re-introduce these elective procedures and surgeries.

How will my experience be different now compared to before COVID-19?

Important precautions implemented in the earliest stages of COVID-19 remain in place across our facilities. We continue to limit the number of entrances into facilities, so you will see enhanced wayfinding signage throughout, including entrances and exits. Staff screeners are present at these entrances to take the temperature of and provide masks to every individual arriving at the facility. Social distancing will also affect your experience within our facilities. We currently permit one visitor (screened negative and masked) to accompany patients during procedures. Additionally, virtual visitation exists for all facilities. Common areas such as cafeterias and lobbies have been reconfigured to ensure adequate spacing between visitors and patients. We have also established dedicated units and/or areas within Med Surg/ICU/Units/ER for COVID-19 patients, minimizing any risk to others coming in to our facility.

Is it safe to return to your facility? (How can I be sure the room, the x-ray machine, the OR, the recovery room are safe?

Because we deal with infectious diseases on a daily basis, we are uniquely equipped to manage COVID-19 safely within our clinical facilities. Elevated cleaning measures, constant housekeeping, access to alcohol-based hand gel, and regular sanitation are all a part of the daily routines at these sites of care. In addition to these precautions, we ensure a safe care environment in our hospitals by employing additional enhanced protections, ensuring all patients, visitors and staff are protected from exposure to infectious diseases like COVID-19. These protections include universal masking, comprehensive screening, escorting patients to their procedures to reduce risk of exposure, and treating all COVID-19 patients in an isolated area of the hospital.

Will I be around other patients who have COVID-19 or suspected of having the virus?

Our facilities are currently isolating COVID-19 patients in separate areas and units. This means that COVID-19 patients remain separated from other patients and are cared for by a dedicated team of clinicians, preventing the spread of the virus to other patients seeking care. Our locations are also equipped with rapid testing, and require universal masking of everyone in the facility. Separate entrances have also been designated to help monitor and control access.

Am I more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 at a healthcare facility than other locations?

Few settings outside one’s own home have as many protections in place to prevent exposure to COVID-19 as our medical facilities. Our protections ensure that everyone inside the building has been screened, that those known to have COVID-19 are kept separate, and that everyone is instructed to wear a mask and observe social distancing.

How can I be confident that my doctors and nurses don’t have COVID-19?

The same protections we have in place for our patients are those we have in place for our caregivers. Staff and physicians are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and tested when necessary, and our colleagues on the clinical care team are not permitted to work if experiencing any infectious symptoms. Universal masking is in place across our sites of care, and we are appropriately stocked with personal protective equipment (PPE) for all of our clinical teams. COVID-19 care teams are assigned to separate areas within the facilities and will not be assisting your team.

Will I be tested for COVID-19 before my procedure? What about the members of my care team?

HCA Healthcare hospitals do not require a COVID-19 test to be scheduled for surgery. The decision to test a patient for COVID-19 prior to a surgical procedure is the treating physician’s decision, based on multiple factors and standards. Those standards do include testing patients who are scheduled for most procedures that carry a higher risk of transmission if COVID-19 were present (e.g., lungs or respiratory), as well as patients with symptoms that suggest they may be carrying infectious disease.

How should I prepare for my visit?

Continue to follow infection prevention guidance including frequent hand washing, disinfecting frequently touched surfaces and avoiding public areas. On the day of your visit, please follow signage and enter through designated entrances. If you currently use prescription medications at home, it is our recommendation that you bring those with you to your appointment. If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing, please let your physician know immediately. If your doctor has recommended a COVID-19 test prior to your procedure, you should self-quarantine from the time of the test until the day of your procedure.

Do I need to come to the hospital before my surgery?

Patients will be contacted prior to their procedure and information will be collected at that time. It’s important that the hospital has a way to reach you for these questions, whether by phone or email. Only patients who require evaluation or testing that has to be conducted at the hospital before surgery will be asked to present for a pre-op visit.

Will my family be able to be with me? If so, will they be safe?

We continue to maintain every precaution when keeping our patients, colleagues and communities safe. In alignment guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we currently permit one visitor (screened negative and masked) to accompany patients. Visitors who screen as potential for COVID-19 are not allowed to visit a patient excluding the following considerations: 1) end of life situations and 2) medical decision-making responsibility. Virtual visitation is also available at all of our facilities, as well as virtual consults with surgeons and a virtual discharge processes. These systems enable patients and at-home caregivers to receive medical discharge orders from their homes.

We have taken additional strong measures to ensure the safety of all involved, including changes to our waiting areas and communal spaces. Station areas and tables are distanced six feet apart to allow for social distancing, and we have removed public coffee and water stations. Signs will be present to remind everyone to keep their masks on and respect social distancing requirements.

If your visitor/caregiver is unable to come to the hospital during your procedure, the hospital offers a televisit solution that allows your loved ones to speak to your care team either through a video visit through Facetime (for Apple/iOS devices) or Google Duo (for Android devices)

Will my recovery be different? Will I be more likely to catch COVID-19 after a medical procedure?

Your surgeon will discuss with you the risks and benefits of surgery, including if there is increased risk of contracting COVID-19. It will of course be important that you maintain all the precautions that the general public are asked to follow. As always, we are here to support you in your recovery, whatever the circumstances.

What if I’m experiencing symptoms similar to COVID-19?

If you are experiencing symptoms such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing, please let your physician know immediately.

If your hospital continues to see an increase in COVID-19 patients, will you change your policies?

We are consistently evaluating our hospital resources, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and ICU bed availability, and making adjustments to our approach if and when protocols need to evolve. We also are in continuous communication with local healthcare delivery systems, including state and local health officials, and those surgeons who have direct responsibility for their patients. HCA Healthcare facilities will continue to follow Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recommendations as they evolve, and our hospitals will accommodate procedures that physicians determine to be appropriate within those recommendations.

Where can I get more information about COVID-19?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a robust website at www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html. The CDC also houses responses to commonly asked questions on their website. We make every effort to ensure our own website is current, but given the nature of policy updates, it’s always best to call your facility to verify the most up to date information.