GLENDALE – Ascension Wisconsin has plans to begin a phased, measured and clinically led process to resume some non-urgent services and procedures, as well as primary and specialty care clinic appointments at its Wisconsin sites, it announced today.
The timing will vary across the state and will proceed in stages effective May 11.
“It’s important we take careful and measured steps to ensure a safe and gradual return to providing full access to healthcare services, while also continuing to serve and support individuals and communities impacted by COVID-19,” said Gregory Brusko, DO, chief clinical officer, Ascension Wisconsin, in a news release. “During this transition, patients can expect expanded access to healthcare services with enhanced safeguards to ensure our sites of care continue to serve as healing environments – where quality care is delivered with high levels of safety and compassion.”
All Ascension Wisconsin facilities—hospitals, emergency rooms, clinics and offices—will continue to implement recommended infection prevention precautions with enhanced safeguards to minimize the exposure risks related to COVID-19 for patients and caregivers.
Ascension Wisconsin facilities will maintain temporary visitor restrictions and screening protocols for people entering hospitals. The health system also will require every patient scheduled for an elective or non-emergency surgery to undergo appropriate screening and testing for COVID-19 prior to his or her planned surgery date. Following their screening and testing, patients will be asked to self-quarantine until their surgery.
Additional enhanced safeguards for in-person visits include:
- Screening. All Ascension associates are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they come to work to ensure they are healthy and symptom-free before entering or interacting with patients.
- Cleaning and disinfecting. Environmental services teams will continue to perform rigorous disinfecting measures.
- Visitor restrictions. Temporary visitor restrictions were put in place to protect patients and staff. As Ascension facilities begin to reopen for surgeries, procedures and appointments, we will begin the process of revisiting and relaxing some of these restrictions to maximize the safety of patients. Each facility will have its own specific visitor guidelines.
- Appointment scheduling. Ascension Wisconsin is offering staggered appointment times to reduce the number of patients with overlapping wait times.
- Waiting room distancing. All patients will be asked to wear a cloth face covering when coming to Ascension Wisconsin facilities. In addition to practicing social distancing within Ascension Wisconsin hospitals, clinics and offices, patients and visitors will notice that waiting areas have fewer people and special instructions are posted for avoiding exposure.
- Urgent care needs. Unless it’s an emergency, patients are asked to call ahead and not to arrive unannounced at Ascension care facilities. By calling ahead, people can learn about and follow the safety procedures for each facility and schedule a safe time to visit.
- Offsite screening locations. Patients with non-emergency symptoms of respiratory illness are asked to call ahead before visiting Ascension care facilities. Ascension has set up separate specialty care sites designed specifically for patients with such symptoms to decrease the risk of infection at Ascension sites of care.
“Although COVID-19 is still in our communities, we understand individuals in our local communities have emergency and healthcare needs outside of COVID-19, many of which cannot be delayed or deferred without serious health risks,” said Bernie Sherry, ministry market executive, Ascension Wisconsin, in the release. “Our approach to reintroducing services is led by our clinicians, who are working with our local teams on a strategic process to keep our patients, associates and physicians safe and informed throughout this time of transition.”
Ascension Wisconsin staff will begin the process of contacting patients to reschedule procedures that were postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, prioritizing patients with the most urgent needs. Services also will be available for patients to take a proactive role in their health and schedule appointments and regular doctors’ visits online or over the phone.
For people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, respiratory distress, emergency mental health concerns, or other acute illness or injury, a hospital emergency room is still the safest, most appropriate place to get care.
People in need of care can call their Ascension Wisconsin provider or the Ascension Wisconsin COVID-19 hotline toll-free at 833-981-0711. The hotline can be accessed 24/7. Direct access to COVID-19 online information from Ascension can be found here: healthcare.ascension.org/COVID-19. This online resource now includes a useful self assessment tool. Ascension Online Care offers virtual visits with a doctor 24/7 from work, travel or home. Download the app at ascension.org/onlinecare. No insurance required.