Henry Ford Health System resumes normal surgeries and procedures

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published July 6, 2020

File photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — A tumultuous period for local and national hospitals, such as Henry Ford Health System, has been learned from and is being used to advance in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By mid-June at HFHS, all hospital-based services were approaching pre-surge capacity as a myriad of departments were adapting to the now common colloquialism of “the new normal.” To emphasize safety, patients are seeing changes when they arrive for radiology screening, surgeries or in-person doctor’s appointments.

About 1,000 procedures were postponed at the pandemic’s onset, as the only surgeries performed were related to life-threatening or critical procedures. On April 17, other surgeries and procedures resumed, such as for heart disease, cancer and spinal injuries. On May 20, all transcatheter aortic valve replacements resumed. By mid-June all elective surgeries, including bariatric and joint replacements, also resumed.

As part of new safety measures, all surgery patients undergo COVID-19 testing prior to their procedures. Results are returned hours later. Pre- and post-op surgery areas continue to honor social and physical distancing.

It was hoped that the surgery backlog would be resolved by the end of June.

All patients, visitors and team members are not only being screened for COVID-19 symptoms before entering any of the health system’s facilities via a temperature check, but those who do show possible signs of illness are being referred for proper care.

Masks of any type are mandatory, with the hospitals providing masks to those who require them. Social distancing guidelines relegated to six feet continue to be utilized in waiting, seating and lobby areas. Elevators have a limited per-person capacity.

All facilities have undergone “rigorous disinfection” while frequent cleaning schedules are maintained. Only one visitor 16 years or older per patient is allowed from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at Henry Ford Macomb Hospital in Clinton Township — for patients who are not COVID-19 positive.

Each HFHS location has different hours, but the measures apply to the entire network of hospitals, outpatient medical centers, pharmacies, dialysis locations and eye care centers.

HFHS stated in a press release that most patient appointments during the extreme period of the pandemic were conducted remotely, via the electronic health record patient portal MyChart. More than 10,000 average “visits” occurred weekly across the system, with patients interacting with either their personal doctors or specialists. Video appointments will continue for patient convenience.

Ambulatory services reopened in mid-June. Emergency departments remained open the entire time, as did urgent care centers. The HFHS release states that at the height of the pandemic, “Locally and nationally, a concerning trend of stroke and heart attack patients who delayed ER care was experienced.” They added that the trend “seems to be ending” as heart attack, stroke and other life-threatening ailments returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Currently, those who require screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies are encouraged to resume them.