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Editor's Page: No Safer Place to Be
Outpatient ORs should continue to host procedures during the pandemic.
Daniel Cook
Publish Date: August 9, 2020   |  Tags:   Editors Page

My family is firmly in the camp of taking the coronavirus threat seriously. Although I am beginning to venture away from home more often these days, masked and sanitized, for curbside pick-ups and social distancing visits with friends. I still haven’t stepped foot in a big box store, though, mostly because I haven’t needed to.

Maybe that’s a good thing. When I spoke to Richard Berger, MD, a Chicagoland joint replacement specialist, about the importance of continuing to perform elective procedures during the pandemic, he said it’s safer to have a joint replaced in his health system’s hospital or surgery center than it is to go to Walmart. He’s never been there with my daughter when she can’t buy another Beanie Boo, but his point is well taken.

Dr. Berger casually ticked off the many additional and important COVID-related safety protocols his health system has implemented as if he was wondering why I asked about them. He wasn’t glossing over the importance of safe practices. Quite the opposite, really. He was expressing that preventing disease transmission in the OR is a given for surgical professionals. It’s what you do. It’s what you’ve always done.

“We approach every case with the assumption that the patient has something we don’t want,” said Dr. Berger. “We take every possible precaution.”

His sentiments were echoed by several of the surgical leaders who shared their insights for this month’s cover story. They’re strongly in support of performing elective procedures, even as COVID-19 spikes in parts of the country remind us of the long road ahead.

Keeping surgical schedules full during the pandemic demands an overabundance of caution, but there’s no better place for patients to have their procedures done than in your outpatient ORs. They’re in and out in a matter of hours and cared for by a team of dedicated providers who do whatever’s necessary to deliver safe, efficient care, and minimize infection risks. That’s never been more evident over the past four months. You shut down your ORs overnight, opened them back up nearly as quickly and completely reinvented how surgery is performed.

Your ability to become an expert in new best practices in a matter of months is inspiring. Patients are continuing to undergo surgery safely in your ORs during a pandemic that shutdown the nation. Let that sink in for a second.

Our editorial team was struck by the conviction the surgical leaders we spoke to had about keeping elective cases going. They’re not cavalier about the coronavirus. Like you, they’re confident in their teams’ abilities to adapt and thrive in order to provide the surgical care patients desperately need.

Dr. Berger compared the debilitating effects of joint arthritis to being quarantined during the pandemic. He says healthy Americans who were stuck in their homes and unable to enjoy the simple pleasures of life experienced for just a few months what it’s like to deal with chronic joint disease. “They couldn’t go to the gym or take a walk in the park. How did that make them feel?” asked Dr. Berger. “Many patients have serious health conditions that leave them homebound for much longer than what we’ve experienced this year. That impacts their quality of life and mental health. We need to get them up and moving, and back out into the world.”

Do your part to make sure surgery continues to be performed safely and appropriately. Your patients are counting on it. OSM