March 20, 2020
University Health System Transplant Center understands that many of our pre and post-transplant patients have questions and concerns regarding the risks of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19. Rest assured our transplant team is working with factual, confirmed information from local and federal health authorities, infectious disease experts, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations to provide the best plan of care for our patients and their families.
As you know, this situation is continually evolving locally, nationally and globally. Our multidisciplinary transplant team has made some changes to our usual protocols to ensure the health and safety of our patients. It is important to know that this information can change at any time.
In an effort to continue your plan of care during this time of social distancing, University Transplant Center is changing many outpatient visits to “telemedicine,” or video visits. We will work to accomplish this by using an application called "Cisco Webex Meeting," or through a phone connection.
1. Prior to your scheduled appointment, we will notify you of the following:
- That due to your stable condition, we will be converting your appointment to a telemedicine visit.
- If you do not have an email address and device needed, we will do this by phone.
- If you do, the visit will be by Webex allowing you to see, hear and interact with the team members. You may use a cell phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer for this type of visit.
- Instructions on using Webex
- To test your Webex connection, visit https:/www.webex.com/test-meeting.html
- For video tutorials on Webex, visit https://help.webex.com/en-us/8bzter/Cisco-Webex-Meetings-Video-Tutorials
2. Your condition requires a more thorough physical exam and/or medical treatment. Please continue to meet with us in person.
Some studies, exams or procedures may be postponed due to COVID activity. We are working closely with clinics and testing sites to ensure you get the care you need when things improve.
Thank you for your support as we work to provide you the best care possible.
Outpatient Clinic Visit Updates
- Transplant medical staff will review each patient‘s situation to identify the safest way to evaluate and monitor their progress. For this reason, some routine patient appointments and procedures over the next few weeks may be postponed, changed to a telephone call or lab visit.
- Patients coming to clinic will be prescreened by phone within 48 hours of their appointment.
- One caregiver may accompany the patient for clinic visits and testing.
- Visitors and patients who park in the West Garage will take the shuttle to the hospital. Only staff may enter through the Sky Bridge.
- Everyone is being screened prior to boarding the shuttle from the Garage and before entering University Hospital. The screening includes a few questions and a check of your temperature.
- If a patient screens positive, they will be directed to the Emergency Department. Please let the ED know you are a patient of the Transplant Department.
- Please wear a mask at all times when visiting the hospital.
Deceased Donor and Living Donor Transplants
We are taking every precaution necessary to limit the exposure of infection. After careful consideration, and in keeping with recommendations reflecting the national pandemic, we have postponed transplants for our most stable patients, which includes many of our living donation cases. Patients who are in greater need will remain active on the wait list as we continue to perform lifesaving transplants.
If a patient has questions regarding COVID-19 or feels they have been exposed, they may call their primary care physician and/or their local Health Department:
- San Antonio Metropolitan Health District COVID-19 Hotline: 210-207-5779
- El Paso County Public Health COVID-19 Hotline: 719-575-8888
- Laredo Health Department COVID-19 Hotline: 956-795-4954
- Corpus Christi – Nueces County Public Health District COVID-19 Hotline: 361-826-7200
- Rio Grande Valley/Edinburg – Hidalgo County Health and Human Services COVID-19 Hotline: 956-383-6221
Transplant recipients who have fever, but do not have COVID related symptoms*, may call the transplant clinic during business hours at 210-358-4500 (for pediatric patients, please call 210-358-8309). If after hours, please call NurseLink at 210-358-3000.
If a patient experiences difficulty breathing, abnormal chest pain, pressure in their chest, disorientation, or significant fatigue – call 911 immediately.
If you are placed under home quarantine and/or you test positive for COVID-19, please notify the transplant team.
*COVID symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath, other flu-like symptoms; some transplant patients may develop pneumonia.
If Admitted to University Hospital
In order to protect the health of our patients and staff during the COVID-19 outbreak, restricted visitation and access to inpatient floors is in effect.
While at Home:
- Avoid contact with symptomatic individuals.
- Use good hand hygiene and avoid directly touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
- Avoid sharing utensils, toothbrushes, and drinking glasses.
- Disinfect surfaces you touch frequently to limit spread by hand-to-surface contact.
- Stay calm and do all you can in your personal communication to help reduce the spread of misinformation and rumors.
What Guidelines Are Available for Pre-Transplant and Post-Transplant Patients?
We urge you and those who are in close proximity to you to adhere to the federal and local recommendations for social distancing (staying 6 feet apart). Along with handwashing, this will most dramatically reduce the risk of transmission.
Additionally, follow the guidelines provided for the general population by the CDC and read the answers to commonly asked questions by transplant candidates and recipients by the American Society of Transplantation (AST).
What Should I Do About My Medications?
Continue to take all of your medications as prescribed unless otherwise notified by your provider. Try to keep a one-month supply available at all times. Please call your pharmacy if you are uncertain about remaining refills and to inquire about your eligibility for a three-month supply.
Stay informed from trustworthy resources.
- University Health System (UHS) – universityhealthsystem.com
- UT Health San Antonio (UTHSCSA) – uthscsa.edu
- United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) – unos.org
- The American Society of Transplantation (AST) – myast.org
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – cdc.gov
Patient and Caregiver Facebook users may join University Transplant Center’s private group https://www.facebook.com/groups/UniversityTransplantCenter/.
For today, and every day, please know that University Transplant Center, in collaboration with University Health System and UT Health San Antonio, are working together to protect you, our patients and the safety of our workforce. This is a challenging time but we will persevere in our efforts of providing the best health care in our nation, transplanting those in need, and continuing to give our daily gratitude to our donors and their families.
With great respect,
Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D.
Director, University Transplant Center
UT Health San Antonio