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Covid testing for all surgery patients changes Nov. 15

07 Nov 2021

PCR testing no earlier than three days before

By: Angie Anderson, DO, site chair and surgical services medical director

The recent COVID surge driven by the Delta variant has led to careful thought about our current processes and patient safety in pre-procedure testing. This variant has a shorter incubation time, much higher infectivity,and higher viable viral tracheal concentrations in both vaccinated and unvaccinated people than the original COVID-19 virus. 

These differences make our procedural patients more vulnerable than ever to COVID-19 infection in the perioperative period. COVID-19 test positivity varies by county, which is quite high in our area, and many patients are not able to isolate for a week prior to surgery despite our recommendation to do so. 

To increase safety, our surgical governance committee has supported a change to our pre-procedure testing process. Starting Nov. 15, all patients who are scheduled for surgery at Salem Hospital must have a COVID-19 PCR test no earlier than three days (procedure is day zero) prior to their procedure. This is a change from the previous eight-day window, and is already the standard at many other hospitals in our area. As is the case today, patients presenting without a test will be tested on site, but this may delay their procedure.

For the reasons above, we are adapting this new standard to best protect our patients and our staff. The requirement for COVID-19 testing prior to surgery applies to all patients, whether they have been vaccinated or not. We continue to accept PCR tests from other labs. Patients can also bring a paper copy of the result with them to the hospital.

We understand that this change can be challenging for both patients and treating physicians. We will do everything we can to make it easier. Our pre-surgical screening staff will reach out to surgical clinics with this updated information for pre-op COVID testing in order to give your clinic staff enough time to make the proper changes to the communication with your patients. 

Thank you for your consideration and partnership in doing the best we can for each person we care for.