Hospitals, Clinics Allowed to Loosen Restrictions on Patient Care
As we reported last week, some rural clinics are facing financial disaster because they’ve only been able to treat the most urgent cases. “Because of that, hospitals and clinics have put off a large amount of volume of important care which has damaged and had negative effects on patient health across the state,” says Jordan Warnsholz, who owns Wellston Medical Center in Manistee County.
Some hospitals have also laid off workers because they aren’t keeping busy enough with those non-emergencies. But the state now says patient care should be considered on a case by case basis to determine which services are needed.
Warnsholz says, “It’s all about prioritizing and everyone’s health issues are extremely important. Those whose health issues are negatively impacting their quality of life and limiting their abilities to perform their daily activities, those will be the priorities that we will see first. There will still be some restrictions and each hospital will be different with their protocols and what they will allow now. I have, and I am testing this out already, I’ve sent over some important yet non-emergent lab orders to a local hospital to the local lab. And I have not yet gotten a call back saying they are not allowing those.”
For Warnsholz, “that really does open the door for us to start seeing people in the clinic again. And it will be a process with precautions in place of course. We will start slow, and if we are able we will start speeding things up to our normalcy.”
According to the Michigan State Police Emergency Operations Center:
Patient care can be considered on a case-by-case basis to determine which services are needed more immediately and which can be safely delayed without resulting in a decline in health.
“The Executive Order gives providers broad discretion,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive at MDHHS. “I applaud our frontline health care providers who put their lives at risk, and who are engaged in efforts to continue to care for their patients in the safest way possible. The guidelines should assist in determining the best way to treat patients without delaying needed medical services.”
The recommendations include:
- Limiting in-person contact as much as possible, and implementing best practices for infection prevention and control, such as maximizing the use of telehealth, eliminating waiting room times, requiring patients to wear masks, and more.
- Prioritizing in-person patient interactions and face-to-face appointments for the most vulnerable patients, and for necessary services like immunizations.
- Reassuring patients of appropriate safety measures such as expanded testing and PPE.
- Assuring appropriate surge capacity and developing emergency plans including how to gradually start doing more procedures, conserving PPE, and ensuring adequate supplies and staffing.
“We hope this guidance helps answer questions but recognize it is not a substitute for clinical judgement,” Khaldun said. “Providers know their patients best and will understand the safest, most effective ways to manage their care under these circumstances created by the pandemic.”
It is also important for patients to understand they should not delay important medical care, especially emergency care. If there are signs of potentially life-threatening disease, such as a heart attack or stroke, do not delay testing or treatment.