A month after announcing that all nonessential health care should be delayed amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Trump administration released recommendations on restarting elective surgeries and procedures.
Resuming these surgeries on an outpatient basis is part of the administration's phase one plan to reopen the country and get Americans back to work. But before phase one can start, a state or region would have to have a downward trajectory of documented and potential coronavirus cases for two weeks and hospitals would have to have a robust testing program in place.
The postponement of elective surgeries has delayed many patients' ability to get needed care and has wreaked havoc on hospital finances, forcing some to furlough employees and cut pay and hours -- even for emergency room doctors in areas without many cases.
Congress set aside $100 billion for hospitals and health care providers to make up for lost revenue and cover additional expenses to combat the outbreak as part of its $2 trillion relief package. Lawmakers are looking at funneling billions more to the sector in their next bill.
Restarting elective procedures will be determined on a state and local basis, and hospitals must meet certain criteria, said Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Facilities must evaluate and prioritize what care should be given, screen staff and patients for symptoms, including temperature checks, and have sufficient personal protective equipment and other supplies on hand. Social distancing and sanitizing protocols should be in place.
Also, when adequate testing capability is established, patients should be tested before care and staff should be regularly screened by lab tests.
And conditions should be continuously evaluated since these procedures may have to halt if a surge in coronavirus cases takes place.
The recommendations are generally in line with a road map released last week by four medical industry groups, including the American Hospital Association. It also stressed the importance of having a sustained reduction in cases, an adequate supply of staff, supplies and beds, availability of testing and the prioritization of cases, including cancer and transplants.
The governors of several states, including Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma and West Virginia, have recently announced the loosening of restrictions on elective surgeries as part of the effort to reopen their states.