As the pandemic continues, Vermont hospitals, like Rutland Regional Medical Center and Central Vermont Medical Center, have instituted requirements that patients must meet to be admitted for a surgery or procedure and those requirements are serious and necessary, according to health care providers.

Lisa Bovat, patient experience manager at Central Vermont Medical Center, said there are staff members at the entrances conducting health screenings and asking questions suggested by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Vermont Health Department. Some of those questions had been about travel, but now they’re more about quarantine, Bovat said.

“We have had to be a little bit more strict coming into later fall than we were this summer,” she said.

According to Bovat, that screening has been mostly consistent from the early days of the pandemic.

Dr. Melbourne Boynton, chief medical director at Rutland Regional, said his hospital was following guidance from the health department that was issued once Vermont hospitals were given permission to resume elective surgeries in May.

“When the Vermont Department of Health went from saying, ‘No elective surgeries’ to saying, ‘Gosh, we think we can do elective surgeries, if we do it safely,’ all of the chief medical officers from the various hospitals and the commissioner of health (Dr. Mark Levine) from the Vermont Department of Health, got together and worked out these requirements,” he said.

They’re universal within the state of Vermont and, Boynton added, they were developed by multiple health care leaders to make sure procedures could be done safely.

“It’s not a single independent doctor, it’s not a single independent hospital. (At) the hospital, there is some slight room for interpretation, but not very much,” he said.

Bovat said CVMC’s entrance screeners try to help patients meet the needs set before they can be admitted to the hospital. For instance, they will “educate them in the moment” if they come in without masks.

“We have screeners at our main entrance who are really good at being welcoming, being considerate. We’re patient-family centered (and) focused. They try to meet the patients right where they’re at with what their needs are and help (them meet) the minimum requirements to come into the building,” she said.

Boynton said patients should remember the precautionary requirements exist “to protect the public and to protect the acute care capacity of the hospital.”

“The reaction back in the spring of shutting down elective procedures was devastating to a lot of people. A lot of people are in pain, a lot of people have made plans, a lot of people couldn’t work because they had, say, a torn rotator cuff and they needed the surgery in order to heal and get back to work. All that was put on hold, and it led to an increase in despair among patients throughout the state and throughout the nation,” he said.

Requirements designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 inside a hospital will help to ensure that hospitals will be allowed to continue to provide elective procedures, Boynton said.

Bovat said patients who respond to the surveys about their experience are saying they feel “very safe and cared for” after going through the screening process.

“The vast majority of people, if they came in not wanting to adhere to safety procedures, quickly understand why it’s important. The screeners are very adept at helping people to get to the best safety scenario for them,” Bovat said.

Also, Boynton noted, “there have been some adjustments as there have been with lots of things in ‘COVID World’ as we’ve learned more and more about COVID and how it’s transmitted.”

Like Rutland Regional, CVMC has a policy that requires patients get a COVID test and then quarantine before they can be admitted for a procedure.

“I have not heard of anyone pushing back on that. People are very appreciative of being able to access health care and the procedures that they need. They appreciate that the safety procedures are in place for themselves and to protect those who are providing care,” she said.

Boynton said he understood some patients may feel as if these requirements are something new, but said there are surgeries or procedures that require patients follow certain specific order for the operation to go forward.

The requirements for COVID may feel unusual to patients because it’s such an unusual disease that up to 40% of patients who are contagious might not present any symptoms.

According to Johns Hopkins University, the death toll in America from COVID was almost 380,000.


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