After careful review of the current trends and projected hospitalizations, BJC HealthCare has announced that it will postpone elective procedures and surgeries that can safely be postponed for at least eight weeks at all its 15 hospitals and ambulatory settings starting this week.
“As COVID-19 cases continue their dramatic climb in our region, it is essential we take additional steps to prepare our hospitals and assist our caregivers in delivering the best care possible for our patients and their families,” the release said.
In a letter sent out on Sunday, BJC HealthCare President/CEO Richard J. Liekweg and Washington University Physicians CEO Dr. Paul J. Scheel Jr. explained their decision to the community.
“With the positive cases growing exponentially and our COVID-19 hospital admissions already the highest they have ever been, BJC HealthCare and Washington University physicians are preparing now for how we will handle this inevitable surge of patients who we know will need our services,” the letter said. “We must take this drastic measure both to increase our hospital capacity and ensure we have the staff available to continue providing exceptional care for our patients. An available room means nothing if there is not a nurse at the bedside.”
They also made a plea to the community to help support them during this time.
“There are clear steps to take that are proven to reduce the spread of the virus,” the letter said. “As basic as it seems, our greatest protection against COVID-19 while we await a safe and effective vaccine is a mask – a piece of cloth worn over the mouth and nose.”
The other steps they listed were social distancing, washing your hands, and avoiding large gatherings.
“We know how tiresome and restrictive this is,” the letter added. “We are all collectively weary of these measures. But, they continue to be our best defense and we must dig deeper to stay the course while the vaccines continue to be developed and produced.”
Despite this announcement from BJC HealthCare, Parkland Health Center wants to remind members of the community how important it is to keep up with preventative care measures.
Regular or specialty appointments are not affected by the postponements.
Since the pandemic began, Parkland has seen a decrease in wellness checkups, colonoscopies, and mammograms, according to Chief Nursing Officer Heather Taliaferro.
“We know that people — due to COVID-19 — there's a fear of coming into the hospital, and that people have been holding off on scheduling their routine wellness checkups, their colonoscopies, their mammograms,” Taliaferro said. “But we do want to let people know that catching severe illnesses early on is very important to a successful outcome of those illnesses.”
She also wants to assure community members that it is safe to come in for those appointments even with the pandemic.
In order to keep the community safe, she said, they are screening all staff and patients before they come in, thoroughly disinfecting each exam room in between patients, maintaining some visitor restrictions, reformatting waiting rooms for social distancing, staggering appointments to reduce patients in the waiting rooms, and requiring everyone to wear face coverings in their facilities.
They also have virtual appointments available.
“I know there's a lot of fear because they think, ‘oh, there's COVID in the hospital,’” Taliaferro said. “And yes, we do have patients that come and seek treatment for COVID-19 in here. But we do all of those things to keep others from getting COVID while they're in our facility.”
They also keep those who have COVID or are suspected to have COVID separate from regular patients, she added.
To get help finding a physician, call 800-392-0936.
Parkland also has a new convenient care open. The office is open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday.
Nikki Overfelt-Chifalu is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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