California ASC requires patients to get COVID-19 vaccine

Pacific Heights Plastic Surgery in San Francisco now requires staff and patients to have the COVID-19 vaccine before entering the facility.

The policy change began with the installation of a new cappuccino machine. The center also has a machine that makes latte art, and patients can get coffee with the ASC's logo while they wait. Jonathan Kaplan, MD, said the center decided to offer coffee to other tenants in the building as well.

"We started thinking, if we're going to invite all these people in for free coffee, are we going to be encouraging people to come in with the delta variant?" he said. "We decided if people come for free coffee, the one string attached is they have to be vaccinated and show proof of vaccination. Then we thought, if we're going to require people coming in for coffee to be vaccinated, maybe we should be requiring the people who are coming to get surgery in our in-office operating room; they should also be vaccinated."

The center already was requiring patients to show a recent negative COVID-19 test before undergoing surgery, which is common for hospitals and ASCs. Under the new policy, anyone seeking surgical consultation at the center must show either their vaccination card or a California digital vaccine passport.

"This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated. That's the only reason it's been able to break through in the few cases for the vaccinated patients," Dr. Kaplan said. "Far and away, most people in the hospital are unvaccinated COVID-19 cases, so we are going to do our small part [to stop the spread]. If you're coming in for a procedure, cosmetic or reconstructive, you have to be vaccinated. It keeps our employees safe and their families safe, and I think it's also safe for all the patients coming in to minimize the chances that we have a delta variant in our office."

Dr. Kaplan said there has been some pushback to the policy, and a few unvaccinated patients decided not to have their surgery at the center, but his team sends those individuals information about how to get vaccinated. San Francisco has reached herd immunity, so Dr. Kaplan said most patients who seek consultations are vaccinated.

"It's something people are embracing and understanding, and the patients who are vaccinated are probably pretty happy about it," Dr. Kaplan said.

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