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Post Date:04/24/2020

Gov. Kate Brown announced today that her executive order limiting elective surgical procedures will be lifted May 1 provided that hospitals are able to meet certain COVID-19 preparedness criteria.

The change will allow St. Charles Health System hospitals and others around the state to slowly begin ramping up the number of surgeries performed, as long as the hospitals maintain an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) and maintain open-bed capacity at or above 20 percent to accommodate a potential surge in COVID-19 patients.

This is good news for Central Oregon patients who have been dealing with difficult health situations while waiting for a safe time to receive care. St. Charles received some shipments of PPE last week and currently has adequate critical resources on hand. 

The governor’s new executive order also stipulates that, to start, hospitals will be able to perform up to 50 percent of their pre-pandemic volume and will be required to review and prioritize cases based on indication and urgency. Some surgeries that require critical resources will continue to be postponed. 

While the governor characterized the change as an important move for Oregonians whose quality of life has been impacted by the delayed surgeries—and for hospitals and health systems who have seen their revenues decline—she cautioned that the state will monitor and adapt its guidance as needed. 

Since COVID-19 first appeared in Oregon, St. Charles hospitals have been performing up to 25 surgeries daily that were either considered urgent or fell within the exceptions of the governor’s prior executive order regarding elective surgeries. The kinds of surgeries performed varied, but all had the common caveat that a delay in moving forward with them would cause significant harm to the patient.

St. Charles formed a group of experts, called the Limited Elective Procedure Panel (LEPP), to evaluate requests for elective surgeries. The LEPP—which is led by clinical leaders throughout the health system—will remain in place to continue making decisions about which surgeries can be done. 

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