Today, Ascension Wisconsin announced plans to begin a phased, measured and clinically-led process to resume services for certain non-urgent and medically necessary procedures as well as primary and specialty care clinic appointments at its sites of care across Wisconsin.
Effective Monday, May 11, 2020, in some locations, Ascension Wisconsin sites of care will gradually reintroduce services, while continuing efforts to serve and support patients, associates and communities impacted by COVID-19. The timing will vary across the state and will proceed in stages, in accordance with Ascension’s system-wide safety and infection prevention protocols.
“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. “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.”
In the meantime, and until further notice, 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 individuals 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 their 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, using screening tools designed to ensure they are healthy and symptom-free before entering or interacting with patients at Ascension care facilities.
- Cleaning and disinfecting. Environmental services teams will continue to perform rigorous disinfecting measures at all Ascension facilities.
- 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 as soon as we reasonably can do so to still maximize the safety of patients and at the same time provide our patients with the optimal social and spiritual support for healing. Each local facility will have its own specific visitor guidelines. The public is asked to please contact their local facility for updates.
- Appointment scheduling. Ascension Wisconsin is offering staggered appointment times to reduce the number of patients with overlapping wait times.
- Waiting room distancing. In accordance with CDC recommendations, 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, individuals 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.
On March 22, 2020, Ascension began postponing and canceling elective surgeries and non-urgent medical procedures at its hospitals and sites of care as an additional precaution to help prevent the spread of infection, to help conserve resources and increase capacity for its system-wide response to COVID-19. Simultaneously, social distancing efforts orchestrated by federal, state and local governments were put in place to help communities “flatten the curve” and control the spread of COVID-19.
Since that time, Ascension hospitals have continued to provide emergency surgeries and services for patients with emergency needs while also providing patients with convenient 24/7 access to providers through virtual care options and telemedicine. Beginning May 11, in some locations, Ascension Wisconsin sites of care will gradually begin to reintroduce certain elective surgeries, medically necessary procedures and other in-person services that should not be delayed.
“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. “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.”
With the reintroduction of certain elective procedures and appointments, Ascension Wisconsin staff will begin the process of contacting patients to reschedule procedures that were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, using clinical judgment to prioritize scheduling for patients with the most urgent and immediate 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 individuals 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.
All Ascension Wisconsin hospitals and clinics will continue their COVID-19 readiness and response plans to both reduce the spread of the virus and to immediately manage any possible surge of patients in need of care for the virus. COVID-19 testing will continue to be available at all Ascension Wisconsin sites of care by appointment.
Ascension Wisconsin has launched a multi-faceted public awareness initiative as part of its plan to reintroduce services. This includes marketing, advertising, social media and patient communications.
Individuals in need of care may 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: https://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 www.ascension.org/onlinecare . No insurance required.