Forsyth Medical Center

Novant Health Inc. has said it plans in May to resume doing some elective surgeries and in-person office visits.

Novant Health Inc. plans May 4 to resume certain non-essential elective surgeries and procedures, as well as select in-person wellness appointments, the health care system said Thursday.

Those appointments will include some pediatric well checks, chronic disease and acute issue visits.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center plans to resume similar services in early May.

Novant, Wake Forest Baptist and Cone Health temporarily halted those non-essential surgeries, procedures and appointments March 18 to preserve hospital beds for potential COVID-19 patients.

At that time, Novant said its postponement of non-essential surgeries would last through April 30.

On Monday, the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it was preparing final guidance on resuming those surgical procedures in phases “in regions with low and stable incidence of COVID-19.”

The guidance is focused on allowing nonessential elective surgeries for patients without COVID-19 symptoms.

Cone Health said Thursday “it has teams looking into restarting, but no restart date. Cone Health is still seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases.

“Patients need to take care of their health, and in line with national trends, Novant Health has seen a worrisome decline in patients seeking care for emergent conditions, including heart attack and stroke,” the system said in a statement.

Carl Armato, Novant’s president and chief executive, said that “putting off care indefinitely is simply not good for our patients — and in some cases, deadly.”

“We urge our community to seek the care they need. At the advice of our physicians, and on behalf of our patients who need care, we have thoughtfully decided to resume some of these services. The number of patients receiving care for COVID-19 within our facilities has stabilized, and our team stands ready to care for the community.”

Novant said it would prioritize rescheduling patients with delayed and postponed appointments and procedures. Those patients would be notified by phone as early as today.

In preparation of resuming non-essential and elective surgeries, Novant said it would add enhanced safety measures, including patient and team member screenings, required masking of patient-facing team members, and enhanced cleaning and disinfection processes.

It may include lowering the number of patients in the clinic at once, workflows to reduce use of waiting rooms, and even some care delivery within the confines of your vehicle. Visitor restrictions will remain in place.

“We recommend all patients come to their appointments with a cloth mask or face covering,” the system said. “Patients without a mask will be provided one upon entering our facilities. Novant is advocating universal masking for the public as we transition to our new normal.”

Dr. Wayne Meredith, chairman of surgery for Wake Forest Baptist, said he believes “a coordinated approach (with Novant and Atrium Health) benefits our patients and staff and ensures an adequate supply of personal protective equipment to keep patients and staff safe.”

“We have begun to evaluate specific patients as candidates to move forward. We plan to start resuming some of the surgeries and procedures that have been delayed, starting with those patients whose needs are the most urgent.”

rcraver@wsjournal.com

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@rcraverWSJ

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