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Re-opening rollbacks: what will happen to health care if restrictions increase?

Posted on Jul. 16, 2020 ( comments)

Governor Jay Inslee announced an additional two-week pause on the state’s re-opening activities on July 14, 2020, citing a worrying increase in COVID-19 cases in many communities. This means that counties will remain in the re-open phase they are currently in until at least July 28. Inslee also indicated that he could order counties to roll back to earlier phases and re-introduce restrictions if case counts continued to climb.

For some, that possibility has raised questions about what impact any such rollback would have on their upcoming surgery or doctor’s appointment.

The short answer is: It shouldn’t have any impact at all.

We all remember back in March when Inslee temporarily ordered a halt to elective surgeries and procedures. In those early days, there was sometimes confusion about what was, and wasn’t, allowed under the Governor’s surgical order.

“Even under the first Governor’s order, elective surgeries were allowed under a number of circumstances,” says David Carlson, DO, MultiCare’s Chief Physician Officer. 

Those circumstances included: 

  • When not performing surgery would result in the injury or illness getting worse
  • When there was the possibility that delaying surgery would result in more complex future surgery or treatment 
  • When delay would cause increased loss of function, continuing or worsening significant or severe pain or deterioration of the patient’s condition or overall health 
  • When a delay could result in a less-positive ultimate medical or surgical outcome 
  • When leaving a condition untreated could make the patient more vulnerable to COVID-19 infection, or the resulting disease morbidity and/or mortality 
  • When non-surgical alternatives are not available or appropriate per current standards of care

And, while other doctor’s appointments and surgeries were also postponed for a time, this was due not so much to the governor’s order as it was for the need for health systems to address critical personal protective equipment (PPE) supply challenges.

“It was all about the PPE,” says Dr. Carlson, about the Governor’s order and other procedure postponements. Fortunately, that PPE shortage has been addressed, and MultiCare and other health care systems across our state now have adequate PPE.

Without these PPE concerns — and with new procedures and processes in place to keep patients safe and effectively address any increase in hospital volumes — hospitals and clinics should continue to operate fully even if re-opening restrictions are once again tightened in any given area.

For those who may be fearful of going to the hospital or doctor’s office during a time when cases are once again increasing, Dr. Carlson points out that with all the extra infection prevention measures that have been put in place since the start of the outbreak, coming to a hospital or clinic is a low-risk activity.

“Appointments are safe,” he says, “Far safer than going to a grocery store. If we do have to roll back, patients should still keep appointments and seek care.”

COVID-19 is new to our communities, but taking care of patients safely is not new to MultiCare. Learn more about the extra steps we're taking to keep our patients, visitors and employees safe at our hospitals and clinics.

Posted in: COVID-19 | General Vitals

About The Author

maura hallam Maura Hallam
Maura is an experienced writer and editor who writes extensively about health and wellness topics, from fitness and nutrition to medical insurance. 
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