Policy, Hospitals

CMS tells hospitals, dentists to cancel elective surgeries

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued new guidance for healthcare providers to cancel elective procedures. CMS said the measures are intended to maintain the supply of personal protective equipment and ICU beds as healthcare providers grapple with Covid-19.

To preserve protective equipment and ICU beds, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is telling hospitals and dental practices to postpone elective surgeries. In a guidance issued late Wednesday, CMS Administrator Seema Verma advised healthcare providers to delay all elective surgeries, and non-essential medical and dental procedures for the duration of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The reality is clear and the stakes are high: we need to preserve personal protective equipment for those on the front lines of this fight,” Verma said in a news release.

Several hospitals have already moved to postpone or suspend all elective procedures, particularly in states that have seen significant outbreaks, such as Seattle and New York. Some of them include Swedish Medical Center, Mount Sinai Health System, and Mayo Clinic.

But CMS made it clear that hospitals across the country, even in areas with few cases, should be preparing.

“At all times, the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), hospital and intensive care unit beds, and ventilators should be considered, even in areas that are not currently dealing with COVID-19 infections,” the agency stated.

Hospitals on both coasts are already running out of masks, face shields and other protective equipment. Some facilities have also begun setting aside space for critically ill patients as ICUs overflow. As of Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 10,442 cases and 150 deaths in the U.S. attributed to Covid-19.

CMS recommended cancelling all non-essential dental exams until further notice, as close proximity to patients could put healthcare providers at risk. The agency also put together a tiered list to help facilities determine what types of procedures to cancel.

For example, CMS recommends postponing low-acuity surgeries, such as endoscopes or cataract surgery. It also asked hospitals to consider postponing non-urgent orthopedic procedures, such as hip and knee replacements. Cancer treatment, transplants, heart surgery and other critical will not be postponed.

Physician groups have supported the guidance, with the American Dental Association instructing its members to cancel all non-emergency dental procedures. American Medical Association President Patrice Harris commended the guidance as a “vital step for allocating resources during the pandemic.”

“The nation’s physicians know challenging days are coming. We are preparing for it and are grateful that the federal government understands that physicians need to have flexibility when responding to this threat,” she said in a statement.

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