OU Medicine Begins Phased Restoration of Elective Procedures, Widespread Patient Testing and Rapid Triage Central to Plan
OKLAHOMA CITY AND TULSA – OU Medicine and its academic partner, the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, are restoring all healthcare services in a phased schedule designed to keep patients, visitors, healthcare providers and staff safe from COVID-19 infection.
OU Medicine’s healthcare experts have created a multi-phase process that focuses on widespread patient testing, new pre-visit and pre-admission protocols and continues with rapid triage and isolation of patients awaiting COVID-19 results. Universal masking has been in place and will be an ongoing requirement for patients, employees and visitors in OU Medicine facilities.
“Healthcare never closes, and OU Medicine has been safely caring for patients with emergency or critical needs during this pandemic. We are ready to restore elective procedures with adequate personal protective equipment and masking supplies in stock, widespread and quick turnaround testing available in-house, and new protocols in place that ensure ongoing safety,” said Cameron Mantor, M.D., acting chief medical officer for OU Medicine.
Hospitals in the OU Medicine enterprise – OU Medical Center, The Children’s Hospital and OU Medical Center Edmond, as well as the Ambulatory Surgery Center on the Oklahoma City campus – will resume procedures in three phases beginning May 1 and continuing throughout the month. Time-sensitive and essential cases will be prioritized. The current visitation policy for hospitals will remain in effect for safety with ongoing evaluation – although visitors are not permitted for adult patients in the hospital and are limited to one visitor for pediatric patients, OU Medicine is committed to addressing the needs of families of patients receiving palliative care so they can communicate regularly, Mantor said.
Testing patients for COVID-19 is a critical component of the process, Mantor said. All patients scheduled for inpatient or outpatient surgeries or procedures will be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the procedure date. If the test is negative, patients must self-isolate until the day of the procedure. Because of a newly created test and expanded testing capacity, OU Medicine is able to test a significant number of patients for COVID-19 each day.
Patients who are hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment will continue to be isolated during their care from other patients in the hospital, Mantor said. In addition, OU Medical Center Edmond will no longer admit non-urgent patients who test positive for COVID-19. Those patients will be transferred to designated isolation rooms at OU Medical Center for their care, allowing the Edmond hospital to focus on all other services.
All adult and children’s OU Physicians Clinics, as well as Stephenson Cancer Center clinics, will reopen in phases beginning May 4, starting with select surgical and specialty clinics. The OU College of Dentistry has safely cared for patients with emergency dental needs throughout the pandemic and will resume elective dental procedures on May 4.
Patients undergoing outpatient surgical procedures must also be tested for COVID-19 within 72 hours of the procedure date, said Lynn Mitchell, M.D., chief medical officer for OU Physicians. If their test is negative, they are required to self-isolate until the day of the procedure.
In both the clinics and hospitals, healthcare providers and staff will adhere to safety protocols throughout the phased reopening, Mitchell said. Universal masking remains a campus policy – all personnel will wear masks, as will patients and visitors. All current elements of social distancing, patient safety, screening at building entrances, personal protective equipment, and prioritization of supplies and resources will remain in place. In addition, healthcare providers and staff are required to complete an online COVID-19 screening process prior to returning to work.
“We believe these extensive safety protocols hold the key to resuming healthcare services,” Mitchell said. “We are taking all precautions necessary and following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control so that our patients can feel comfortable visiting their doctors and other healthcare providers. With everyone doing their part, we believe we can continue to flatten the curve of new cases and return to full capacity in patient care.”
Additionally, healthcare providers will continue to expand telehealth visits with their patients, Mitchell said. “Telehealth will remain a valuable option for our patients no matter where they live,” she said. “While we look forward to resuming our normal activities on campus, we will provide all opportunities possible to allow patients to receive the care they need.”
The seven colleges of the OU Health Sciences Center, on both the Oklahoma City and Tulsa campuses, are following a similar phased approach.
Physical distancing of at least 6 feet between individuals is required for all spaces, and in-person gatherings or meetings of 10 or more people are generally not allowed. All faculty, staff and students must wear masks in campus buildings and common areas. Entrances to all buildings remains restricted. Entrances to patient-care buildings will be attended, and entrances to other buildings will be restricted to key or card access.