The Potluck

Gov. Walz says order allowing elective surgeries to resume coming this week

By: - May 4, 2020 1:51 pm

Gov. Tim Walz addresses the press on May 4, 2020.

Gov. Tim Walz says he will issue an executive order in the coming days allowing hospitals to resume elective surgeries, which have been suspended since March to keep beds and personal protective equipment (PPE) available for people infected with COVID-19.

“We’ll probably have an announcement in the next day or so (for) elective surgeries to happen again,” Walz said.

The move is sure to face some backlash from health care workers who fear Minnesota could still see a surge in COVID-19 cases while PPE continues to be in short supply.

Minnesota continues to see COVID-19 cases surge upward, including 1,000 new cases reported over the weekend, according to Minnesota Department of Health. Part of the increase is due to expanded testing, but the number of new cases is still outpacing the rise in additional testing. MDH predicts the state is still more than a month away from reaching its infection peak.

The Minnesota Nurses Association, a union representing 22,000 nurses, sent a letter to Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm on Saturday urging the Walz administration not to allow elective surgeries to resume until the state sees the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases decline for 14 days in a row, a standard recommended by the American College of Surgeons and the American Hospital Association, among others.

The union also says medical providers must have adequate staffing, surgical supplies, screening protocols and 30 days of PPE on hand, standards that are not currently widely met.

“Our members are being required to utilize PPE that is expired, to staple together elastic bands for respirators, to reuse single-use PPE multiple times, to bring in their own PPE including homemade masks, to go without PPE, and to otherwise engage in practices that would have resulted in termination from employment only two months ago,” Mary Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association, wrote in the letter.

Hospitals across the state saw revenues crash as nonessential and elective procedures were indefinitely postponed, leading to thousands of health care workers being furloughed across the state.

As Christopher Snowbeck reported for the Star Tribune, elective doesn’t mean cosmetic or unnecessary. Patients are awaiting cancer treatment, heart surgery, orthopedic treatment and dental procedures.

Dental care workers are among the hardest hit by the suspension of elective procedures. Dental procedures are among the riskiest in terms of transmitting COVID-19, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, but Walz said resuming dental procedures will be a part of the executive order he’ll announce in the coming days.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Most recently he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.