COVID-19 FAQs: Elective surgeries

COVID-19 FAQs: Elective surgeries

Here’s what veterinarians need to know about current restrictions on elective surgeries during Colorado’s COVID-19 response.

  • Are veterinarians permitted to do elective surgeries and procedures?
    • Yes, elective surgeries and procedures are permitted with the stipulations outlined in this FAQ document per Public Health Order 20 29, which was originally issued April 27 and extended multiple times — this Public Health Order currently expires December 13. 
  • What does this order say about PPE requirements?
    • Facilities must have adequate access to PPE supplies in order to sustain safe PPE use for its workforce for 2 weeks without the need for emergency PPE-conserving measures as recommended in CDC guidance. If a veterinary facility proposes to extend the use or reuse of PPE, it must follow CDC guidance.
    • Pet owners entering facilities should wear cloth masks that cover both the nose and mouth.
    • Procedures are appropriately scheduled so that staff have sufficient time to change PPE and ensure offices and equipment can be sanitized according to CDC guidance.
  • What does this order say about required screening protocols?
    • Facilities must have a universal exposure and symptom screening process for all staff, pet owners, and visitors prior to entry into the building, which at a minimum includes asking about known exposure and for recent history of fever (greater than 100.4 degrees F) or chills, cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing, fatigue, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, muscle or body aches, nausea, or vomiting and diarrhea and chills. A sample form can be found here.
    • If a pet owner or visitor reports symptoms, the veterinary facility should follow CDC guidance should a pet owner currently have respiratory symptoms or be a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19.
    • If an employee reports any symptoms, refer symptomatic employees to the CDPHE Symptom Tracker and take all of the following steps:
      • Symptomatic employees should use a facemask or a cloth face covering that covers both the nose and mouth for source control and leave the facility immediately;
      • Increase cleaning in the facility and Social Distancing and Transmission Risk Reduction Requirements of staff at least six (6) feet apart from one another;
      • Exclude symptomatic employee from work activities according to the CDC’s “Criteria for Return to Work for Healthcare Personnel with SARS-CoV-2 Infection (Interim Guidance)” until they are released from isolation by public health. In most cases, someone is released from isolation when they are fever-free, without medication, for 24-72 hours, other symptoms have improved and 10 days have passed since their first symptom. A limited number of people with severe illness may require longer isolation; and
      • If more than two employees have these symptoms, contact your local health department.
  • What does this order say about required cleaning protocols?
    • Veterinary hospitals must practice routine infection prevention measures designed to minimize transmission of zoonotic pathogens from animals to veterinary personnel. Strict infection control policies as recommended by CDC are implemented, including cleaning and disinfection specific to veterinary facilities.
    • If possible, employees should each have their own workspace and equipment or should avoid sharing work surfaces and tools when possible. If these items must be shared, they should be frequently disinfected.
  • What does this order say about social distancing requirements?
    • Social Distancing and Transmission Risk Reduction Requirements are followed wherever possible such as in waiting rooms and other small spaces and should use physical barriers within pet care areas or use isolation rooms when possible. 
    • Veterinary hospitals should use telehealth for consults or to help triage pet patients, and communicating with pet owners via telephone or video-chat to maintain social distancing.
    • Veterinary hospitals should schedule drop-off appointments or receive animals from their owners’ vehicles through “curbside” treatment.
    • Veterinary hospitals should use online payment and billing to reduce handling credit cards or other potential fomites. 
    • Veterinary hospitals should allow pet owners to check-in pet patients through a virtual waiting room or outside the facility building when possible, and allowing pet owners and pet patients to remain in the car or outside the building until a pet care area is ready. 
    • Veterinary hospitals should implement patient scheduling to provide for social distancing, enhanced cleaning, sufficient time to change PPE, and to minimize aerosol contamination.
    • If clients must enter the practice, veterinary hospitals should provide ample social distancing of 6 feet in waiting rooms, small spaces, and patient or pet care areas.
    • Veterinary hospitals should provide staff with individual workspaces and equipment to avoid sharing desks and work tools when possible.
    • Veterinary hospitals should implement viable methods to eliminate, reduce, or contain aerosol production during care.
  • What else does this order require of veterinary practices?
    • Every veterinary facility must have a plan in place to reduce or stop elective surgeries and procedures if there is a surge of COVID-19 infections in the county or municipality in which the facility is located. CDPHE or the State Emergency Operations Center will determine the conditions that constitute a surge.
    • Every veterinary facility must have a process to determine procedures that are elective or non-essential under the guidelines.
    • Every veterinary facility must reassess its operations every 2 weeks to ensure it is adhering to the requirements set forth in this Public Health Order.
  • Do veterinary professionals need to wear masks?
    • Yes. Colorado has a statewide mask mandate.
  • Should I still try to conserve PPE?
    • Some human hospitals continue to report PPE shortages. Veterinarians and their teams must be thoughtful about their PPE usage and conserve when possible.
  • What about euthanasia appointments?
    • A euthanasia appointment is a critical part of the journey between human and pet. While it is ultimately up to the professional judgment of the veterinarian, it is recommended that clients stay with their pets during euthanasia appointments and that veterinary professionals and clients both use masks and maintain as much social distance as possible during the appointment.
  • Is telehealth still permitted without first establishing a VCPR in person?

 



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