Moving Forward As COVID-19 Conditions Improve

Elective surgeries and wellness visits are being scheduled again. Learn about the extra safety protocols in place at SVMHS.

During COVID-19, many people canceled regular healthcare appointments or put off screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies. In addition, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the American Medical Association recommended the postponement of non-essential elective surgeries.

While the pandemic brought a worldwide focus on the importance of health, statewide restrictions and precautions often derailed important self-care activities. Now is the time to get back on track to prevent disease, manage chronic conditions and have the procedures that will improve overall health.

With extra safety precautions in place and a year’s worth of experience managing the coronavirus, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System is able to safely support all aspects of patient care, including wellness visits, screenings and elective surgeries.

Catching Up With Screenings & Wellness Exams

With restrictions lifted, it’s time for people to put screenings and wellness exams back onto their schedules. “Early detection saves lives, and simple wellness exams support overall well-being,” says Carla Spencer, RN, Director of Emergency Services. “It’s time for everyone to make their overall health and care a priority again.”

Screenings and wellness exams help you prevent future illness and help you manage any chronic conditions. Extra precautions are in place to ensure the safety of all patients, including universal masking, social distancing, enhanced COVID-19 screening and stringent cleaning procedures.

Call your physician now to schedule the following appointments:

  • Annual Wellness Check – Annual wellness checks are your opportunity to connect with your physician and discuss concerns and stay healthy.
  • Cancer Screenings – Screenings like mammograms, cervical cancer screenings, colonoscopies and lung screenings are the best and most effective way to detect cancer in the early stages when it is more curable.
  • Vaccinations – Getting back on track with your child’s (and your) vaccination schedule is an important way to protect you and your family from serious and often life-threatening infections. Babies, children and teens need all recommended childhood vaccinations. Adults age 65 and older need pneumonia and shingles vaccines.
  • Diabetes Screenings – Patients ages 18 to 75 with diabetes should have an annual screening test for neuropathy and an eye exam. People with diabetes should also have a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test every year, or more frequently if levels are elevated. Call your doctor for more information.

SVMHS Rates an ‘A’ Grade for Safety

Of course, safety is always the highest concern at SVMHS. That’s why it is especially affirming that during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the health system was awarded the highest letter grade possible in the Fall 2020 Hospital Safety Score from The Leapfrog Group. The grade reflects everyday safety practices of the health system and is an indicator of the emphasis the health system places on best practices to deliver safe and quality care to the community at all times.

The Leapfrog Group is an independent national watchdog organization that rates how well hospitals prevent medical errors, injuries, accidents, infections and other harm to patients in their care. SVMHS received an ‘A’ rating during a clinical, evidence-based review of patient safety metrics.

“This ‘A’ is a testament to the care and commitment of those who work for Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. With the current pandemic exposing existing flaws within the U.S. health care system, we appreciate you putting patient safety first. Lives depend on it,” says Leah Binder, president and CEO of The Leapfrog Group.

Scheduling Elective Procedures

For many people, scheduled surgeries like knee or hip replacements, hernia surgery and weight loss surgery represent the best way to get back to normal living. But as COVID-19 arrived in the Salinas Valley area in the spring of 2020, all hospitals were mandated to suspend scheduled surgeries to preserve resources for treating coronavirus patients. Later, elective surgeries were limited to emergencies and procedures that could not be postponed.

Now these procedures are resuming at SVMHS, and health system leaders are encouraging people to make their appointments to reschedule as soon as possible. “Putting off necessary care like this for an extended period of time can present additional risks that result in negative health impacts to patients,” says SVMHS President/CEO Pete Delgado.

Patients can be assured that SVMHS is taking additional precautions to ensure patient safety for surgeries. A daily review is performed of all medical resources to ensure the health system can maintain the adequate capacity to respond to all vital services, including a potential surge in COVID-19 cases. In addition, other extra precautions include:

  • Preoperative COVID-19 testing is performed three to four days prior to surgery and patients are required to self-isolate/quarantine after being tested.
  • Scheduled surgery patients must also adhere to postoperative instructions, including visitation restrictions, social distancing, and masking requirements.
  • All surgical suites and patient rooms are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between patients, and hand sanitizer is available at the entrance to all rooms.

Giving Birth Safely

While COVID-19 restrictions interrupted normal screenings, checkups and elected surgeries, it just wasn’t possible to put off labor, delivery and postpartum care. In 2020, approximately 1,800 babies were born at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital.

Enhanced safety procedures throughout the health system served to assure mothers that they and their babies would be as safe as possible during the pandemic. Those precautions and the health system’s continuous focus on safety earned SVMHS the Blue Distinction® Specialty Care Designation for Maternity Care in 2020. The Blue Distinction Specialty Care program is a national designation program awarded by local Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies. It recognizes healthcare providers that demonstrate expertise in delivering quality and affordable health care to meet consumers’ specialty care needs.

“We have lots of protocols and processes in place to keep mothers and babies safe from COVID-19 and also from all the obstetric concerns and complications that can arise,” assures Rachel Beck, MD, OB/GYN at Salinas Valley Medical Clinic Healthcare for Women, and Chief of Staff at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. “Hands down, the safest place to have your baby is in the hospital.”

To listen to an SVMHS Ask The Experts podcast on this topic with Rachel Beck, MD, OB/GYN recorded back in July 2020, click here.

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