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Have elective surgeries resumed? What are the required safety protocols or social distancing policies?

Last Updated: 12/11/2020

Elective surgeries are permitted to resume in New Jersey.

Guidance for Hospitals and Ambulatory Surgery Centers

The Department of Health has issued guidance for hospitals and for ambulatory surgery centers to begin resuming surgeries.

Facilities resuming elective services are required to take additional steps to protect health care workers and patients including:

  • Comply with state and CDC guidelines to protect against further spread of COVID-19;
  • Facilities must test each patient within a six-day maximum before a scheduled procedure. For more information on testing requirements and exceptions, refer to the DOH guidance for hospitals or ambulatory surgery centers.
  • Institute screening of staff for symptoms and have policies in place for removal of symptomatic employees;
  • Enforce social distancing requirements in work and common areas;
  • Require masks for patients, except patients receiving services that would not allow for masking;
  • When possible, establish non-COVID care zones in facilities that serve both COVID-19 and non-COVID patients;
  • Have an established plan for cleaning and disinfection prior to using facilities to serve non-COVID patients;
  • Facilities providing COVID-19 care should continue to be prepared for potential surges;
  • Facilities should be prepared to modify resumptions of clinical services in conjunction with surge status and to repurpose and redeploy staff to urgent care roles to the extent feasible.

In addition, ambulatory surgical centers should not perform procedures on COVID-19 positive patients, unless excepted in Executive Order 109 as an urgent case and nothing in this directive shall be construed to limit access to the full range of family planning services and procedures, including terminations of pregnancies, whether in a hospital, ambulatory surgery center, physician office, or other location.

Facilities must also have a plan for patient and patient support person use of PPE. Facilities must implement disinfection and cleaning protocols and cohort COVID-19 patients and non-COVID patients.

For more detailed information, refer to the Department of Health's requirements for hospitals and ambulatory surgery centers to resume elective surgeries.

Guidance for Dentists, Optometrists, and other Health Care Offices

The New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs has released guidance for health care professional offices, private practices, clinics, urgent care centers, community medical centers to resume elective surgeries.

Requirements include, but are not limited to:

  • Utilizing telemedicine to the greatest extent possible to treat, order tests and triage patients.
  • Calling all patients seeking in-person appointments (or the patient's parent or guardian) to: (1) assess whether an in-person visit is necessary; (2) determine the patient's current health status; (3) determine whether the patient has had known exposure to COVID-19, or has compatible symptoms, or has tested positive; (4) determine the length of time since the onset of symptoms or from the positive test results; and (5) advise the patient during scheduling of in-person appointments of the face-covering requirement below.
  • Prioritizing services that, if deferred, are most likely to result in patient harm.
  • Prioritizing at-risk populations who would benefit most from those services.
  • Requiring anyone coming to the office for an in-person visit to wear, at a minimum, a face covering
  • Screening all patients upon arrival, regardless of symptoms, by means of a no-contact temperature check or thermometers with disposable covers, and record the result within the patient chart.
  • Spacing appointments to minimize patient-to-patient contact and the number of people in the office at any given time. If feasible and consistent with social distancing, patients should remain in their cars or outside until they are ready to be seen, or wait in separate rooms to minimize contact with other patients.
  • Scheduling patients with known exposure or compatible symptoms for the end of the day or in a dedicated room.

For full guidance, refer to Administrative Order No. 2020-07.

Note: Beginning November 5, employers must adhere to new employee protection guidelines, summarized here. Detailed requirements, as well as exemptions for certain employers, can be found in Executive Order No. 192.

Source: Executive Order No. 109; Executive Order No. 145; Administrative Order No. 2020-07