April 13, 2020

Academic surgeons formulate COVID-19 triage plan to reduce OR volume, manage resources

By: Judy Mathias
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Editor's Note

In this study, Elizabeth Wick, MD, and colleagues at the University of California at San Francisco develop a surgery-triage plan to reduce OR volume and manage healthcare resources during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Their comprehensive rapid response plan included:


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  • Reducing OR volume by 80% to ensure adequate capacity to care for an anticipated influx of COVID-19 patients.
  • Safeguarding personal protective equipment (PPE) by creating guidelines for which types of PPE to wear in the OR and when to wear single-use masks vs reusing masks.
  • Preparing for a dwindling workforce because of illness and other reasons by reassigning some surgeons, based on their competencies, to work in inpatient units, the emergency department, or the system’s Level I trauma center. Surgeons also were limited to working at a single hospital in the system, and the daily number of surgeons on each surgical service was reduced.
  • Providing regular communication to departmental staff about the pandemic, emphasizing that everyone should prioritize what was right for the patients.

The authors say the plan is scalable to other healthcare systems and smaller hospitals.

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