Our office has always followed best practices as outlined by OSHA standards for patient and staff safety regarding the disinfection of operatories, wearing protective gear, and hand disinfection between cases. This has always included disinfecting patient care areas with appropriate disinfectants and following OSHA guidance on the care of patients and staff that are, may, or may not be infected with respiratory illnesses, such as the common flu. The products we use all have potency against the coronavirus family, the manufacturers have tested their efficacy against COVID-19, and are awaiting review of their test data by the CDC to back their claim of specific action against COVID-19.
Since the time that the first cases were found in South Dakota, and before the announcement by Governor Noem declaring a state of emergency in South Dakota, we began to institute additional steps to protect patients and staff. This includes having all patients, visitors, and staff undergo hand disinfection as they enter the building. In addition, we have provided patients and visitors with hand disinfection stations at key points throughout the building as they go through our surgical process. We disinfect “touch surfaces” throughout the facility before work starts, during the day, and at the end of the day. This is in addition to the OSHA standards applied to staff and surgical care.
The Center for Disease Control has published Interim Guidance for Risk Assessment and Public Health Management of Healthcare Personal with Potential Exposure in a Healthcare Setting to patients with Coronavirus Disease that we follow and have incorporated into our practice. We follow the same protocol that has just been introduced at both hospital systems. During every patient’s pre-op call, which occurs a few days before they visit the office, we ask if they are experiencing flu-like symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath and if they have traveled out of the country in the last 2 weeks. We also ask if they have been in an area where COVID-19 has been detected or been in contact with a person known to have COVID-19. If the patient answers ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, we ask that they reschedule their appointment at least 2 weeks out and that they seek the advice of their physician whether to be evaluated via telemedicine, examined in their office, or self-quarantined. When patients arrive at our office, we ask these same questions again as a part of our routine workup and we take their temperature. If warranted, based on that data we collect, we will discuss rescheduling that patient’s appointment before they interact with other people already in the office.
Following the CDC interim guidance, we require staff to follow the same guidance we give to our patients. If staff feels that they have become exposed to COVID-19, if they or immediate family members are experiencing flu-like symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath, or if they have traveled out of the country in the last 2 weeks, we encourage them to stay home and seek the advice of their medical doctor. Together we decide if they are a candidate for self-quarantine for 2 weeks or if it is safe for them to come to work.
Many of our front office staff do have the capability to work from home if they have to or decide to, so there will be little disruption to our patients and to our referring offices. For our surgical staff, we have the additional staff we can draw upon if the primary staff has to stay at home so we will be able to provide safe, good continuity of care for patients.
As a part of the pre-existing OSHA standards, we always have and continue to wear the appropriate safety protective gear to limit patient and staff exposure to pathogens, in addition to wiping down all surgical surfaces keeping operatories and patient care areas sterile.
The situation is evolving and, as more guidance becomes available, we will adjust our procedures as necessary. If you have any questions or concerns please contact us and we are happy to discuss why we take the measures that we do to everyone as safe as possible.
From the doctors and staff at Siouxland Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery