Elective surgeries put off due to the COVID-19 response will resume Monday, June 1, at Beebe Healthcare’s outpatient surgery center on Route 24. The move is part of what Beebe President and CEO Dr. David Tam calls the health system’s Recovery Phase 1. Beebe has been operating in pandemic surge 1, he said.
Surgeries at the Savannah Road campus in Lewes will likely resume when Beebe’s recovery reaches Phase 2, targeted for Monday, June 15.
“The curve has flattened to the point where we’re comfortable as a health system to start taking care of all the patients that we had to postpone while still being able to prepare for any unexpected uptick in COVID-19,” Tam said during a May 27 interview.
In the week leading up to June 1, he said, hospital staff has been gearing up for the new normal. Among the safety protocols for reopening are reevaluating each patient whose surgery was delayed, checking to see if their condition has changed and ordering new lab work or imaging if necessary. All patients will be tested for COVID-19 days prior to their procedure to ensure they are not infected.
Some of the staff that was shifted to aid in the COVID-19 response will resume normal duties, Tam said.
The outpatient surgery center was the logical choice to resume elective procedures, he said, because it has been untouched during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s completely clean,” Tam said. “It’s ready to go. All our equipment is there.”
The facility is being retrofitted with plexiglass at the front desk and at registration desks, and there will be markings on the floor to make sure people know where to go and the proper physical distance from another person.
Tam said Beebe will take the first few weeks of June to assess the situation before determining if it’s safe to move into the next phase. When Beebe enters Phase 2, Tam said, more complex procedures will be allowed, requiring a different level of personal protective equipment and anesthesia or intubations at the Savannah Road hospital.
With elective procedures and other normal operations on the back burner for the last two months, health systems nationwide have seen financial challenges. While Beebe is no different, Tam said, the community’s support of the COVID-19 Relief Fund, which is up to $2.1 million, has helped the hospital avoid layoffs.
“This COVID-19 pandemic crisis has been a challenge, especially for the independent, rural hospital health systems,” Tam said. “We’ve asked people to wait, and now it’s time to take care of patients in as a responsible way as possible.”