Hospital association says social distancing is working, asks governor to ease 2 health care orders
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association has asked Gov. Doug Ducey to relax two key executive orders on COVID-19, saying social distancing measures are working in the state.
The association wants Ducey to ease limits on elective surgeries that he set by executive order on March 19 as a way of preserving personal protective equipment for health care workers, which is in short supply.
It also asked him to reconsider a March 26 order to increase hospital bed capacity in the state by 50% by April 24.
Hospitals had an earlier deadline to increase their bed capacity by 25%, and the hospital group is asking Ducey to allow the expansion of beds to stop there.
In a letter dated Thursday, association President and CEO Ann-Marie Alameddin wrote that the public health interventions that Ducey and his team implemented have proven effective and that the environment is "quite different than it was in mid-March."
Surveillance data and predictive models "clearly demonstrate" that Arizona’s social distancing measures are working to “flatten the curve” and are saving lives, Alameddin wrote. The data and predictive models suggest hospitals now have adequate capacity to meet peak COVID-19 demand, she said.
Ducey is working closely with Arizona hospitals, Patrick Ptak, a spokesman for Ducey, wrote in an email to The Arizona Republic in response to an inquiry about Alameddin's letter.
"Our goal and their goal is making sure we have the proper equipment and hospital beds to be prepared for a surge," Ptak wrote. "We’re coordinating with them and looking at the data to make the best decisions for public health."
In her letter Alameddin cited projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that indicate Arizona will hit a peak in daily deaths around April 30, with a projected 26 deaths per day at the end of April and at the beginning of May.
The modeling projects Arizona will have a total of 1,005 COVID-19 deaths by Aug. 4.
State data as of Thursday showed a total of 115 known Arizona deaths from COVID-19-related causes.
"While it is critical that none of us become over-optimistic and we remain ever vigilant, we believe this current success provides you an opportunity to revisit some earlier policy decisions," the letter said. "Evidence continues to mount that the public’s social distancing measures are slowing the spread of new COVID-19 infections in our state."
Alameddin asks the governor to allow hospitals more discretion over elective procedures "to meet the growing patient demand for crucial medical procedures."
"We are sincerely grateful to you and your administration for implementing important interventions. Your administration’s interventions have 'flattened the curve' and are saving lives of Arizonans. Without those interventions, our health system would have been overwhelmed with tragic consequences," Alameddin wrote in the letter.
"By implementing our suggested changes to Executive Orders 2020-10 and 2020-16, we believe that you can improve public health by providing more patient access to needed procedures and continue to ensure that Arizona has the hospital surge capacity to meet peak demand for patients with COVID-19."
An association analysis shows Arizona hospitals are reporting revenue losses of 30% to 40% because of cancellation of elective procedures and a reduction in emergency department visits. Statewide, that equates to a revenue reduction of $430 million to $575 million per month, and hospital officials don't know how long the COVID-19 crisis will continue here.
The letter did not ask Ducey to reverse the order on elective surgeries, but it asked for less restrictive language that would give hospitals more discretion.
Alameddin cited COVID-19 guidance from the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on adult elective surgeries. The federal recommendations allow hospitals to weigh several factors in deciding whether to go ahead with a surgery, among them the current and projected COVID-19 cases in the particular facility and region, the supply of personal protective equipment, staffing availability, bed availability, and the health and age of the patient.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona hospitals, clinics and individual health providers have repeatedly said they don't have enough PPE, and several have begun accepting donations for it.
Alameddin's letter did not say whether there was enough PPE in Arizona. But it said hospitals' contingency planning for conserving and also acquiring additional PPE, combined with a slowing of the spread of the virus in Arizona, "provides an opportunity to relax the limitations on elective procedures."
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