RAMPING UP DELIVERY OF CARDIAC SURGERY DURING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC: A GUIDANCE STATEMENT FROM THE SOCIETY OF THORACIC SURGEONS COVID-19 TASK FORCE
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound global impact. Its rapid transmissibility has transformed healthcare delivery and forced countries to adopt strict measures to contain its spread. The vast majority of U.S. cardiac surgical programs have deferred all but truly emergent/urgent operative procedures in an effort to reduce the burden on the healthcare system and to mobilize resources to combat the pandemic surge. While the number of COVID-19 cases continues to increase worldwide, the incidence of new cases has begun to decline in many North American cities. This “flattening of the curve” has prompted interest in re-opening the economy, relaxing public health restrictions, and resuming non-urgent health care delivery. The following document provides a template whereby adult cardiac surgical programs may begin to ramp up the care delivery in a deliberate and graded fashion as the COVID-19 pandemic burden begins to ease. “Resuscitating” the timely delivery of care is guided by three principles (Figure 1): 1. Collaborate to permit increased case volumes, balancing the clinical needs of patients awaiting surgery against the local resources available within each healthcare system. 2. Prioritize patients awaiting elective surgery while proactively engaging all stakeholders, focusing on those with high-risk anatomy, changing/symptomatic clinical status, and, once these variables have been addressed, prioritizing by wait times. 3. Re-evaluate local conditions continuously, to assess for any increase in admissions due to a recrudescence of cases, to assure adequate resources to care for patients, and to monitor in hospital infectious transmissions to both patients and health care workers.