Elective procedures and surgeries allowed again with extra steps to keep people safe

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Elective procedures in medical, dental and veterinary offices were allowed to resume in Minnesota on Monday, as long as enhanced safety protocols are in place.

The governor’s recent executive order laid out guidelines for hospitals, surgery centers and clinics that include:

  • Prioritizing cases that pose a high risk to the patient if they are delayed
  • Screening staff, patients and visitors
  • Developing methods to conserve personal protective equipment, known as PPE
  • Implementing social distancing protocols

Elective procedures had been on hold since mid-March.

As operating rooms reopen, health care facilities are making changes.

Twin Cities Orthopedics is requiring COVID-19 testing for all patients 24 to 48 before surgery. They will also require testing for all staff every one to two weeks and symptom tracking daily.

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“The testing is not a mandate from the state. It’s something we decided we’re doing on our own,” said Dr. Owen O’Neill, an orthopedic surgeon at Twin Cities Orthopedics. “We feel it’s important that patients know they can safely go to a center where there’s no coronavirus in that center."

O’Neill said they also are using new Aerobiotix machines in the operating room. 

“It’s a special device that turns the air over even more frequently in the operating room,” O’Neill explained. “It’s actually got ultraviolet light associated with it and so it kills any virus that may be in the OR.” 

O’Neill said surgeons at Twin Cities Orthopedics have been eager to get back to work. They had to cancel 4,500 procedures over the past month and a half, including surgeries for knees, hips and shoulders.

"These are people that can’t sleep at night because they’re having pain or they can’t walk because they’re having pain,” O’Neill said.

Scott Dziuk, of Plymouth, is one of those patients whose surgery had to be postponed.

"I’m having a total knee replacement on my right knee,” Dziuk said. 

His surgery was originally scheduled for late April and is now happening on Thursday. He said he has no concerns about contracting coronavirus during surgery, thanks to the increased precautions at the surgery center.

"It’s probably safer to go to the surgery center to have this surgery than to go to the grocery store,” Dziuk said.

Twin Cities Orthopedics said they used to do about 1,000 surgeries per week across their facilities and, for now, will be operating at about 50% of their normal caseload. 

“We’re delaying surgeries of those people who have other underlying medical problems, so they might have diabetes or they might have heart trouble or they might have lung trouble, particularly difficulty breathing,” explained O’Neill.

He said they may have to work extended hours this summer to address their backlog.

Health Partners has also implemented steps to ensure that hospitals and clinics are safe to receive care, including restricting visitors, modifying lobbies to allow for social distancing, changing cleaning protocols and requiring that everyone wears a mask.  

M Health Fairview has also updated safety protocols to include COVID-19 testing for patients, screening employees and limiting the number of people in the procedure room.