GREAT FALLS — Starting back as early as January and February, Benefis Health System in Great Falls was tasked relatively early with changing policies to ensure the safety of their patients, their staff, and our community.
“We did everything correct in our winding down and similarly we’re doing the same things as we wind back up,” said Gregory Tierney, MD, Benefis Health System Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President.
They will be following processes that have been vetted by national organizations including the American College of Surgeons, the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the AORN or Association of Peri-Operative Registered Nurses, and the American Hospital Association being called a “road-map” for resuming some of the procedures they have been putting off.
Some of the procedures they have implemented in the last week include radiological services, some therapies, cardiac services such as EKG’s, for relatively low risk patients. Screening for these patients will include temperature checks, screening questions provided by the CDC and masks provided to patients.
Going forward in what they are calling phase 2, they have allowed some providers to begin scheduling outpatient services and surgeries. These services will require patients to be in a relatively low risk category and able to be done in an outpatient basis.
These patients will be screened at the surgeon's or doctor’s office, screened again the day before the procedure by pre-operative personnel, and again the day of services, they are screened, and given a mask.
Dr. Tierney states that at any point during these screenings taking place, if a patient fails any portion of the screening questions, showing any symptoms, or if they have a temperature, they would then have the discussion if the service is able to wait. Should the surgery be rescheduled or if it is important to proceed, then patients will be tested.
They will not be blanket testing every patient. Internal PCR testing is being done at Benefis but is being reserved for staff, and for cases that need immediate testing, but most tests are still being sent to the state level. At this time hospitals are not being encouraged to use testing as a pre-operative measure because there is still a lot of questions when it comes to the testing, transmission and the COVID 19 virus.
Strict visitation rules will remain in effect during these including the patients ride, they will be required to drop the patient off at a check in station and will have to wait until they are brought back to the check in area.
If this continues to go well, they will move into a third phase where they will start to allow some non-emergent, inpatient surgeries as long as they could ensure the patient would not require any intensive services such as ICU, PICU, or ventilators.
The next step would be to open for most regular services, but the main thing Dr. Tierney pointed out, is that going forward, it never will really go back to a “business as usual” model.
Dr. Tierney says, “Through this process we will continue to monitor very closely what is going on both in the community and within our institution.”
He also added, “It’s going to be judicious, staged and monitored. And when we are back at full capacity, it still will likely require a level of scrutiny and a level of protection that maybe people haven’t had to undergo in the past.”
If you have any specific questions in regard to what services are going to be offered when, the best course would be to reach out to your own doctor, to discuss what options are available, and if there is any concern, the decision ultimately falls in the hands of the doctor and the patient to make decisions.