Senator Joe Pennacchio, while applauding the Governor for opening up parks, is calling on the Murphy Administration to begin reinstating “elective” surgeries in the state.
“We are finally allowing people to get out and walk in our parks and reap the physical and emotional health benefits of exercise. Now it’s time to prioritize the general health of the population and the fiscal stability of our essential hospitals,” said Senator Pennacchio (R-26). “With the emphasis on the virus, at-risk patients have not had access to important and necessary procedures. It’s time to allow people who are not infected to get the care they need from hospitals, health centers, doctors, dentists and eye doctors.”
Pennacchio cited specific concerns for cancer and heart patients and those awaiting biopsies and diagnostic procedures.
As the early cases of coronavirus began appearing in the state, there was a heavy emphasis on preparing hospitals to handle unprecedented demand from infected patients.
As the pandemic worsened, residents were ordered to stay home in self-isolation.
“The people of our state were asked to make significant sacrifices, and as they always do in times of crisis, they responded,” Senator Pennacchio said. “The public’s cooperation and inconvenience helped flatten the curve, and it is beginning to dip downward. This has come at great cost, however, with record job loss and incalculable damage to our access to non-COVID medical care.”
In March, Murphy signed Executive Order No. 109, suspending all elective surgeries and invasive procedures as hospitals poured resources into preparing for the onslaught of coronavirus patients.
The long-term financial and health care implications for hospitals and all health centers should be a grave concern, the Senator emphasized.
“Early in this crisis, both the state and federal governments were mobilizing to save lives. It was the right thing to do at the time, but it created severe financial pressures on facilities and may have put some non-COVID patients at risk,” said Senator Pennacchio. “Hospitals and medical offices are hurting. It is time to shift emphasis to saving our healthcare system. Phase One of Washington’s plan to open up America allows elective surgeries to resume on an outpatient basis. New Jersey should take these steps immediately.”
Politico’s recent report analyzing the impact of the halt of elective procedures quoted the president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists who said, “Let’s be clear, elective surgeries are the lifeblood of many hospitals, if not all hospitals.”
The impact is hitting hard in New Jersey. A spokesperson for the state’s Hospital Association told NJ 101.5 the temporary freeze on elective surgeries means some areas of hospitals are quiet right now and people who work in those settings may be candidates for furloughs and layoffs.
Shore Medical Center in Somers Point sent a letter to employees “stating they had invested ‘significant resources’ on equipment to protect their staff who are treating COVID-19 patients,” NBC 10 reported earlier this month. “They also said they were experiencing a ‘dramatic decrease in revenues’ after they canceled elective surgeries and other scheduled services while protecting staff and patients.”
Other facilities across the state are – or are contemplating – furloughing employees.
“The coronavirus did not overwhelm our medical capacity as feared, but one of the many lessons from this pandemic is that the demand for beds could surpass our supply in a worse-case outbreak,” said Senator Pennacchio. “If we’re going to rely on doctors and hospitals in emergencies, we must unshackle doctors and allow them to do what they were trained to do and treat patients.”