The old adage “preparation time is never wasted” is a fitting descriptor of Providence’s COVID-19 Phase 2 “re-start,” which officially began yesterday with the renewal of elective surgeries and re-opening of ambulatory clinics.

Providence working groups spent the days and weeks prior to the opening developing detailed plans to address the complex logistical, resourcing and operational issues of re-starting the required services and programs.

“The pandemic is a new situation for all of us – for the whole world,” says Leanne Heppell, Chief Operating Officer, Acute Care & Chief of Professional Practice & Nursing. “That means we have to be extra vigilant and extra careful in everything we do when fully bringing on stream our ambulatory clinics, surgical and diagnostic services in a manner that puts staff and public safety first. By all accounts the restart is going smoothly.”

Tuesday and Wednesday saw minimal line-ups outside St. Paul’s, Mount Saint Joseph and Holy Family hospitals, as arriving patients encountered well-planned greeting and screening processes. Patients were provided with masks if needed and were guided to their in-hospital appointments by numerous support staff.

“Our environmental working group has done a stellar job,” says Grant McCullough, operational lead for Providence’s COVID-19 response initiative. “We have in place appropriate screening of patients, appropriate availability and promotion of PPE usage for patients and staff, enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of common touch points and exam rooms, improved wayfinding and communications, and proper readiness of waiting rooms, ensuring physical distancing and safety for staff and patients.”

The work to start addressing surgical backlogs and rescheduling postponed ambulatory visits after so many weeks off can be challenging.

“Registration clerks have to phone patients back to reschedule and some patients can come right away, some are still not ready to venture outside or visit hospitals, and some say they’re busy or don’t need the appointment anymore,” says Dr. Janet Kow, clinical and physician lead for PHC’s COVID-19 response team. “But we’re well underway with triaging of elective surgeries and face-to-face ambulatory visits for those patients who are coming in. We have 11 of the 14 ORs at SPH and three of the four at MSJ currently operating.”

Dr. Kow adds the increased use of virtual care during the past two months has also greatly helped in the transition back to the “new normal.”

“Providence’s approach has been to transition slowly into full operations mode, the coming days will see a steady pick up in activities,” says McCullough. “We are all aware that by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail. That’s why our plans have ensured all our key programs and areas – such as surgery, ambulatory, medical imaging, lab and emergency – undertake the additional activities in an integrated and well-coordinated manner. We have so many people from across the organization working together on this – representatives from facilities, IPAC, professional practice, informatics, IMITS, clinical programs and corporate services. Our patients can have confidence they will be looked after in the safest manner possible.”

This page last updated May 20, 2020 6:28pm PDT