Northam directs postponement of elective surgeries
Order intended to preserve hospital beds, protective equipment for COVID-19 response
Gov. Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver, MD, MA, on Wednesday, directed all Virginia hospitals to stop performing elective surgeries or procedures to help conserve supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The public health emergency order does not apply to any procedure if the delay would cause harm to a patient. The order also does not apply to outpatient visits in hospital-based clinics, family planning services, or emergency needs.
Earlier this week, Northam recommended that hospitals postpone any elective surgeries, and many have already done so.
“Hospitals and medical facilities in Virginia and around the country are in desperate need of additional masks, gowns, gloves, and other personal protective equipment,” Northam said. “While we work to increase our supply, it makes sense to decrease the demand on that equipment where we can. Postponing elective surgeries allows us to divert more PPE to the medical staff who are dealing with the COVID-19 outbreak so we can better protect the men and men on the front lines of this public health emergency, fighting to keep us all safe.”
Licensed inpatient and outpatient surgical hospitals, free-standing endoscopy centers, physicians’ offices, and dental, orthodontic, and endodontic offices may perform any procedure or surgery that if delayed or canceled would result in the patient’s condition worsening. Outpatient surgical hospitals are encouraged to work with local inpatient hospitals to assist with surge capacity needs.
Virginia received its first shipment of PPE from the national stockpile this week and the state has made its second request. The governor continues to call for a nationally-led response for acquiring and distributing PPE so that states are not competing against each other, the federal government, and even other countries for the equipment, causing higher prices in the private sector.
Last week, the governor issued Executive Order No. 52, which lifts Virginia’s certificate of public need restrictions, allowing hospitals and nursing homes to increase their bed capacity as needed to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Northam has also ordered many non-essential businesses to close for 30 days, and told Virginians to stay home except for necessary trips out, so as to increase social distancing and slow the spread of the virus.