Alliance of Va. hospitals calls on Northam to let elective procedures resume

Published: Apr. 23, 2020 at 12:31 PM EDT
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It's been nearly one month since Governor Ralph Northam ordered Virginia hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries and procedures because of COVID-19.

On March 25, Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA

in order to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment for the state's COVID-19 response.

The direction came in


That order, as initially announced, was set to expire on Friday, April 24, running one month.

On Thursday, the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association sent a public letter to the governor urging his administration to let the order expire as intended and let non-emergency procedures resume across Virginia.

"The order has accomplished its purpose of preserving personal protective equipment and freeing up additional bed space in preparation for the COVID-19 response, so there is no need to extend it beyond tomorrow," the VHHA says.

The association argues that extending the order would prevent patients with chronic conditions, and those with immediate medical needs, from receiving timely surgical care, causing negative implications for patients.

They estimate 15,000 inpatient and outpatient medical procedures have been deferred each week due to the public health order.

It's also resulted in furloughs for many health care providers and employees whose jobs are to provide those elective procedures.

As of April 23, 17 other states have lifted their restrictions on non-emergency procedures: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and West Virginia.

Hospitals across Virginia, as of April 23, according to the

, are treating 1,379 COVID-19 patients, have 5,327 beds available, and have 2,264 ventilators available to provide respiratory support to patients.

Given that the needed capacity is available to meet the projected level of COVID-19 cases in Virginia, the VHHA says they also have the capacity needed to meet the requirements for patients who need procedures that have been postponed due to the pandemic.

According to the VHHA, Virginia hospitals have also established a framework (

), for re-opening the health care delivery system in a responsible manner consistent with the Open Up America Again Guidance document recently issued by the White House.

The order that has been in place does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient and does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services, or emergency needs.

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