Pennsylvania and New Jersey Updates for Health Care Providers Providing Non-Urgent and Elective Care
As states begin the process of “reopening,” Pennsylvania and New Jersey have taken important steps that directly affect physicians.
On May 9, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued a revised guidance document for health care providers to perform non-urgent procedures. The guidance states, “Providers may resume non-urgent and elective care in addition to providing urgent and emergency care, only when appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is available and telemedicine is not clinically sufficient. Each health care provider will need to apply their clinical judgment along with their knowledge of the incidences of COVID-19 cases in their area, the needs of their patients and staff, and the availability of any necessary supplies to assess whether to re-engage in the provision of non-urgent or elective care.” The guidance suggests all patients should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms which may include a questionnaire and a temperature check, and social distancing protocols should remain in place. This latest announcement follows the enactment of new statute benefiting psychologists and the use of telemedicine and guidance from the Pennsylvania Department of Health relating to Pennsylvania dental practices.
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed Executive Order 145 on May 15 permitting elective surgeries to resume in the Garden State at 5:00 a.m. on May 26 (the day after Memorial Day) following an almost two-month suspension of the same following an earlier executive order. The initial Executive Order defined an “elective” surgery or invasive procedure as “any surgery or invasive procedure that can be delayed without undue risk to the current or future health of the patient as determined by the patient’s treating physician or dentist.” The New Jersey Department of Health is expected to issue additional guidance regarding the resumption of elective surgeries, including: the types of facilities that can resume these elective procedures, whether facilities will be required to prioritize certain procedures, PPE and staffing requirements, and policies surrounding visitors to be with a patient who has undergone an elective surgery.
The road to a “new normal” for the health care delivery system and the providers who want to provide “elective” care for their patients will take time. Medical facilities – hospitals and ambulatory facilities, medical practices, licensed providers, staff and patients – will all need to be patient as the system ramps up capacity after mostly being shut down since mid-March. Safety protocols will likely continue to evolve and hiccups will be inevitable.
Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr attorneys can help providers navigate these challenges, consider safe alternatives and ensure compliance with state and federal guidance and requirements. For questions about how this article affects you individually, your practice or your facility, please reach out to the authors.