A Central Oregon lawmaker is asking Gov. Kate Brown to “slowly and carefully” lift restrictions on health care procedures that aren’t related to COVID-19.
Rep. Cheri Helt, a Bend Republican, sent Brown a letter on Thursday saying that social distancing is flattening the curve, so now it’s time to figure out how to ease regulations that have curtailed patients’ access to care and hurt providers financially.
“I recognize that this may not be appropriate for every region of the state, but in communities like Central Oregon, it is possible to restore access to hospitals and surgery centers, so patients can receive procedures they need and medical professionals can begin to get back to caring and healing their patients,” Helt said.
Under Brown’s executive order last month, hospitals, outpatient clinics, veterinarians and dentists were to begin canceling nonurgent procedures by March 23 and reschedule them no earlier than June 15. The purpose is to preserve personal protective gear for front-line health care workers.
The lost revenue has led clinics around the state to furlough employees and cut salaries. The health care and social assistance sector reported 25,800 initial claims for unemployment in the past four weeks.
Helt said health care leaders and state and local public health officials can “work together to determine the appropriate guidelines and specific procedures to govern” the process of restarting nonurgent procedures.
“I am already concerned that the term ‘elective’ medical procedure may imply something that is somehow unnecessary for those needing, or wanting, the procedure,” Helt said. “In fact, we are not referring to cosmetic surgery; in many cases, these procedures are essential for people to live their daily lives. Further delaying necessary procedures will have long-term physical and mental health impacts for real people.”
Helt said there were three COVID-19 patients at St. Charles Medical Center and an entire floor closed “in preparation for a large surge that may not materialize.”
“Meanwhile, hundreds of people are awaiting surgeries that could potentially be done safely and expeditiously within normal hospital and ambulatory surgery center capacities,” she said.
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