PORTLAND – On May 21, MaineHealth announced enhanced safety measures and set criteria for which patients would be seen as it restores some services in accordance with state guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our top priority as we start to restore services will be the safety of our patients, care team members and the larger community,” said Joan Boomsma, MD, chief medical officer of MaineHealth. “We will continue with masking and take a number of other steps at our facilities to prevent people from contracting COVID-19.”
Boomsma also said that MaineHealth will use new COVID-19 testing guidance and resources from the Maine CDC to expand surveillance of COVID-19 at its hospitals and among patients about to undergo procedures as an added means for keeping patients, care team members and the community safe.
“These measures and criteria also apply locally to Franklin Memorial Hospital (FMH), which is part of the MaineHealth family,” according to Trampas Hutches, FMH president.
The first phase of Maine Gov. Janet Mills’ reopening plan has allowed health care providers to begin to bring back services that were cancelled beginning in mid-March as part of pandemic response planning.
This first phase provides an opportunity to address the needs of those patients for whom waiting could negatively impact their health and wellbeing, explained Boomsma. “We will focus on caring for those patients whose pending procedures and office visits were postponed in March, but for whom waiting longer at this time could be clinically significant.”
Boomsma said decisions about which procedures and office visits to undertake will be made by clinicians, taking into account each patient’s particular needs. Boomsma said providers will reach out to those patients who should have their procedure or appointment rescheduled. Additionally, she said patients with new or worsening symptoms should contact their provider.
MaineHealth continues to maintain readiness in the event of a surge in patients with COVID-19, and as such is not completely resuming normal operations. In addition to limiting the number of procedures and appointments to be rescheduled, MaineHealth organizations will be maintaining capacity and readiness for COVID-19 patients.
“Our guiding principle is to maintain the highest level of patient, care team and community safety in accordance with federal, state and local guidance for controlling the spread of COVID-19,” said Boomsma.
For those patients whose office visits are not deemed time-sensitive and therefore have not been rescheduled, Boomsma said telehealth visits remain a safe and effective means for receiving care. Since the start of the outbreak, MaineHealth providers have had more than 16,000 telehealth appointments with their patients.
For those who do come in, MaineHealth has issued the following guidelines to assure that care will be delivered as safely as possible during this time:
- Social distancing measures and masking will continue at all MaineHealth facilities.
- All patients who are scheduled for inpatient or outpatient surgical procedures will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms.
- Separate respiratory care centers for the care of COVID-19 patients will continue to be maintained.
- Non-COVID-19 care areas will be established wherever possible and will be staffed with dedicated care team members.
- Patients will be tested preoperatively if their recovery could be affected by a progression of asymptomatic infection.
- All care team members will be screened daily for symptoms of COVID-19 and kept from the workplace for testing and quarantine if they show signs of infection.
- All patients admitted to MaineHealth hospitals, whether they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 or not, will be tested for the virus. (This will greatly reduce the chances of transmission from asymptomatic patients and lessen the chance that patients will have post-surgical complications from COVID-19.)
- Testing for COVID-19 will also be offered to more patients who exhibit symptoms of an infection, even some who do not have underlying health conditions or are not a health care or other essential worker.
“In closing, our priority continues to be the safety of our patients, care team members and communities, and we want to thank everyone for the steps they’ve been taking to help slow the spread of COVID-19. By practicing social distancing, staying safe by being home, and washing your hands, you are helping to flatten the curve and keep our communities healthy,” added Hutches. “And now with our stringent infection control and cleaning processes it is safer than ever to seek care at Franklin Memorial Hospital.”