Gov. Scott allows hospitals to restart elective procedures

Gov. Phil Scott on Monday announced that Vermont’s hospitals may reopen for some elective procedures and non-essential visits, if they follow a long list of conditions.
Hospitals had to cancel non-essential visits and elective surgeries on March 20 as part of Vermont’s efforts to reorient the healthcare system to focus on COVID-19 care. Hospitals can now restart “non-essential outpatient clinic visits, diagnostic imaging and outpatient surgeries and procedures,” according to a statement from Scott’s office.
Scott called Monday’s announcement the first phase of restarting Vermont health care system, and noted that surgeries that require overnight hospital stays were still banned. Companions may join patients for these visits “only if required for direct patient assistance.”
“While postponing these procedures was necessary to help protect our healthcare system, workers and patients during this pandemic, we know these procedures are important to Vermonters’ overall health,” Scott said in an emailed statement.
“We thank everyone for their patience; they’ve helped us make sure we did not risk our ability to care for COVID-19 patients,” the governor added. “But we’re at a point where we can begin lifting some restrictions.”
During a Scott administration press conference Monday, Health Commissioner Mark Levine outlined the many steps hospitals would need to take to ensure safety.
• Screening patients for COVID-19-related symptoms prior to scheduled procedures.
• Screening all staff and essential visitors for COVID-related symptoms prior to entering facility.
• Protective equipment and supplies should be worn and utilized as necessary to ensure staff and patient safety.
• All patients and companions must wear mouth and nose coverings (provided by the patient or by the site) when in public areas.
• Waiting room chairs must be spaced to require a minimum of six-feet physical distancing.
• Providers must have written procedures for disinfecting all common areas.
• Providers must have signage to emphasize social restrictions and access to hand sanitizer.
• Continue to consider alternative care delivery models, including telemedicine, when appropriate.
• Providers will reevaluate and reassess policies and procedures frequently, based on COVID-19 related data, resources, testing and other clinical information.
Levine said that public health indicators could lead to the administration further opening the health care system, or closing it to elective procedures again if there’s a turn for the worse.
“On the more optimistic side though, if our efforts to slow and contain the spread of the virus continue to succeed, expect to slowly and safely reopen other parts of our healthcare system, such as dentistry and eye care,” he said.

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