Hospital group urges Inslee to ease medical restrictions

SEATTLE (AP) — A hospital industry group says patients in Washington are being hurt because they don’t have access to elective medical procedures that are currently restricted due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Washington State Hospital Association (WSHA), saying facilities have plenty of capacity amid a decline in COVID-19 patients, is urging Gov. Jay Inslee to let elective procedures resume.

The group sent a letter to Inslee on April 10 asking him to ease the restrictions that were put in place over worries COVID-19 patients would overwhelm the system. The Seattle Times reports that Cassie Sauer, the chief executive officer of the WSHA, said the organization renewed its request in a Tuesday phone call with Inslee.

Sauer said many patients are suffering “while waiting to get the care they need.“

According to association surveys, the statewide average for hospital capacity is at 70%. Sauer said she is concerned about the toll on patients from delayed cancer screenings and a wide range of other procedures, as well as the financial hit on hospitals from reduced revenues.

“We are way behind other states that already have made this move in recognition that there are many more health needs than COVID,” Sauer said. “We absolutely want to restart the most pressing non-urgent procedures.”

States that have relaxed hospital elective procedure restrictions include Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown last week lifted an order delaying nonurgent medical procedures.

Inslee on Monday said his administration was working on a “hospital-specific” plan that would allow some elective surgeries to move forward if hospitals could demonstrate they had enough personal protective equipment.

Sauer said that she is hopeful, after the Tuesday conversation with the governor, that there will be some action in loosening hospital restrictions in the next few days.

“We have been collaborating with WSHA and labor unions on interpretive guidelines to help hospitals understand the intent and scope of the governor’s original order,” Tara Lee, a spokeswoman for the governor said Tuesday. “We expect to have this done very soon, perhaps within a day.”

The Washington Department of Health on Tuesday reported 21 additional deaths from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to at least 786. The agency also reported 156 more people had tested positive, increasing the number of confirmed cases to more than 13,840.

The coronavirus causes only mild symptoms in many, but it can cause serious illness or death for some, particularly older adults and those with certain health conditions.


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