As the novel coronavirus pandemic continues across American cities, many hospitals are pivoting in the moment to focus efforts on treating – and being prepared to treat – those sickest with COVID-19. Rightly so, to help contain the virus, many hospitals are putting elective procedures and capital projects on hold.

Safety is always our highest priority.

Keeping all patients and employees safe and protected during COVID-19 is a shared priority between our clients and Petra.

However, we know hospitals are seeing a downturn in the number of patients coming in for routine care and many government leaders put elective surgeries on hiatus[]. For healthcare facilities, the result is a drop in revenues that fund both operations and capital projects. Plus, a wavering financial market means that some investment portfolios, which can support major initiatives, have probably taken a hit.

While our people at Petra are doers who don’t like to stand on the sidelines, hitting the pause button on healthcare construction isn’t just a smart choice. It’s the responsible choice.

Here at Petra, we’ve been discussing what it may look like for our partners to get back to a semblance of “pre-coronavirus normal” while ramping back up to full service. The one thing certain with this novel coronavirus is that nothing is certain from day to day, but we are beginning to see an operational framework that puts people’s safety front and center. After more than 1.1 million COVID-19 cases in the United States alone by the end of April, we are starting to see the curve flattening and some states are starting to relax stay-at-home and reopen non-essential services and businesses. In our daily lives, we can expect some level of social distancing to continue, a practice that is generally challenging to be followed during patient care.

Returning to the business of elective surgery will be a top priority, as surgical admissions drive nearly half of a medical center’s revenue. Patients will be returning for annual physicals, vaccinations and less-urgent needs once the immediacy of local outbreaks diminishes. That means medical centers will bringing back staff to meet the growing demands.

The American Hospital Association recently released a roadmap for safely reopening for elective surgery, and these guidelines have relevance across healthcare operations. Key considerations for bringing patients safely back to the operating room including:

  • Testing is the primary gateway. Avid is developing a blood test that can determine in as fast as 5 minutes whether an individual has the coronavirus, even if not showing any symptoms of COVID-19. Everyone who is going to be in an OR during surgery needs to be tested first – every single time.
  • Hospitals must rethink the entire chain of care. Testing isn’t enough. Both patients – and staff – go from location to location across a healthcare facility. That might include stops in the lab, imaging area, pre-op, OR and recovery. More complex cases or surgeries often require overnight admission. Every human interaction brings the potential for a nosocomial infection, with COVID-19 from a staff member being a legitimate concern.
  • A return to pre-pandemic levels of care will be slow. Providers will need almost daily COVID-19 testing, and we are nowhere near producing the required volume of tests. Hospitals can’t expect this to be a sprint.
  • The level and frequency of testing should follow medical guidelines. Medical facilities must weigh whether more stringent protocols would generate greater confidence among patients and staff that they are safe and protected.
  • We need to keep eyes forward. Careful and constant attention must be given to regional trends for new COVID-19 patients. If those numbers start to peak again, the prudent move would be to scale back. Federal health advisers also have cautioned of a resurgence of coronavirus in the fall. However, by then, we hope that researchers will have developed effective tools for contract tracing and treatments that could minimize a second major impact.

We are committed to you.

Like our hospital partners, we have experienced furloughs as construction work was pushed lower on the priority list. We’re choosing to look at this as a short-term disruption and plan to bring back many of our trusted and talented team members in the weeks and months ahead.

Of course, building is the most visible part of what we do at Petra, but we do so much more. Planning is just as essential a service for our partners, and we’re continuing to do that. We’re brought in to build new services – operating rooms, outpatient clinics and so much more – that are critical to meeting already-identified community needs, which won’t disappear for the long term with COVID-19.

During this hiatus from some projects, we also are developing practices for safely re-engaging on job sites when our partners invite our hammers and hardhats back.

Picking the smartest path forward.

We will get through this together. As your partner for your organization’s future vision, we remain nimble to get back to work when it’s safe for everyone. We remain focused on delivering the projects you need to serve your ministries’ goals today – and every day going forward.

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