With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic keeping many residents in their homes in an effort to avoid the potentially deadly contagion, some Tri-Valley hospitals have noted a decrease in the number of patients making medical visits out of fear of contracting the virus.
Some people have even gone so far as to postpone medical needs and non-essential surgeries out of concern over COVID-19 exposure; however, local hospital officials want residents to know that they are still open to safely fulfill all medical needs and that proper policies and procedures have been put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
"We currently have a backlog of patients who delayed their surgery. Some of these patients have unnecessarily made these already difficult months even more difficult for themselves by placing their health on the back-burner," Dr. Saqib Hasan, a spinal surgeon at San Ramon Regional Medical Center, told the Weekly.
While there are some cases in which it is safe and perhaps even advisable to postpone a surgery, Hasan said that every precaution has been taken to ensure that the hospital is sanitary and safe. He noted that certain complications can arise from postponing certain surgeries and patients need to consult with their physicians prior to making a decision.
"When it comes to surgery, there are some potential permanent problems from delaying care. For example, in spine surgery, muscular weakness from nerve compression can sometimes be irreversible if there is a prolonged delay," he added.
Hasan did note that while there was a more noticeable dip in patients visiting the hospital at the beginning of the pandemic, recently there has been a steady increase in the volume of patients returning for various levels of care.
"In general, we want to make sure our patients feel safe coming to the hospital and they aren't putting their health care needs on the back-burner, which can cause issues down the line. We are running a very safe, efficient hospital for patients to receive care," Hasan said.
To keep patients safe from the virus when visiting, hospitals throughout the country have been practicing strict policies and procedures aimed at preventing the spread of the pandemic.
Pleasanton's Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare, for example, has implemented a number of policies geared toward combating the virus, policies primarily based off recommendations from county, state and local government health officials.
"We have an established interdisciplinary task force led by infection control practitioners, focused on developing response plans for infectious disease outbreaks (including COVID-19) in alignment with CDC recommendations," Denise Bouillerce, ValleyCare's director of government and community relations, told the Weekly.
"(Stanford-ValleyCare) is continuously adapting procedures and policies based on new information and guidance from the county, state and local governments," she added.
According to Bouillerce, at Stanford-ValleyCare policies enacted to protect hospital patients, visitors and staff from the virus include:
* Visitor policy restrictions and expanded access to video visits limit the number of possible exposures.
* Universal masking and screening procedures for staff, patients and visitors
* Employees are tested for COVID-19 using methods developed by Stanford Medicine.
* Waiting rooms and clinics are arranged for physical distancing.
Stanford-ValleyCare and San Ramon Regional have also enhanced cleaning measures are in place and staff equipped with personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, gloves and masks.
Stanford-ValleyCare further mandates that all patients are tested for the virus prior to their procedures, while San Ramon Regional screens them and strongly encourages patients to receive a test.
"Every precaution is being taken, combining strong infection prevention processes, staff training, testing and ample supply of personal protective equipment. We are committed to universal protection and safety for every person who walks through our doors," Hasan said about San Ramon Regional.
Hasan added that every patient and visitor who enters the hospital is screened for fever and other signs and symptoms of COVID-19 and hospital staff complete a coronavirus-related screening questionnaire every day as well as receiving temperature checks when entering the building.
Diligent sanitation protocols are also followed at both hospitals, officials said.
"If you are in need of care or have questions about your health, please don't hesitate to reach out to us whether it's through the emergency room or through your physician. We have safe practices in place and your health is our No. 1 priority," Bouillerce said.
Stanford-ValleyCare currently operates a public testing site at the Alameda County Fairgrounds, Gate 12 located off Valley Avenue, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to noon -- or while supplies last. The testing site is open to residents of Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin with no out-of-pocket expenses.
No appointment is needed to receive a test, which is available for residents who show symptoms or have been in close proximity with someone who has tested positive. Residents can learn more online at www.valleycare.com.
The San Ramon Valley's drive-thru testing site can be found at Bishop Ranch, 2600 Camino Ramon, in San Ramon. To make an appointment for a fast, no-cost test at any site in Contra Costa, residents can call 844-421-0804 or visit www.coronavirus.cchealth.org -- online scheduling is available at most sites.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that San Ramon Regional Medical Center requires all patients to be tested for COVID-19 before a medical procedure. The hospital screens the patients and strongly encourages them to receive the test before undergoing a procedure, but does not mandate it, according to hospital officials. The Weekly regrets the error.