April 22, 2020
The California Medical Association (CMA) issued guidelines and recommendations for reopening the health care system. The document was developed by a taskforce of practicing physicians from different parts of the state and different sized practices, and speaks to both policy makers and practicing physicians.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spread throughout the world, California and the United States took steps to limit the transmission and impact of the virus by implementing shelter in place orders. While this has so far prevented any surges overwhelming our hospitals, it has also meant that many other parts of the health care system have been idled to preserve resources and capacity in the system and limit opportunity for transmission or exposure of the virus.
Physician practices and health care facilities have seen massive drops in patient visits, caused by a combination of shelter in place orders and patient fear. This may lead to much more complex problems in the future, as patients miss routine screenings and preventative care. With proper safety precautions, a doctor’s office is one of the safest places for a patient to be. Reopening the health care system in a thoughtful and safe way is a necessary and important step for California to take.
On Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for restarting some elective surgeries, lifting the restrictions placed upon hospitals that had put on hold all scheduled surgical procedures in anticipation of a massive wave of COVID-19 patients overwhelming the state’s health care system. CMA understands and supported the rationale for suspending elective surgeries and supports the governor’s call for beginning now to lift some of those restrictions for elective surgeries now as well as encouraging reopening other parts of the health care system.
Reopening California’s health care system will not happen all at once, and will not be the same in all parts of the state. Reopening should be in phases based on testing, treatment and data, and the regional capacity within local health care systems throughout the state.
As we begin to reopen our health care system, CMA proposes several steps that will be instrumental to ensuring the ongoing safety of patients and the health care workforce, including a regional approach to reopening the health care system, the need for continuing regulatory flexibility, new safety protocols and the need for a public education campaign to let Californians know it is safe to go back to the doctor’s office.
You can read the full set of guidelines here.
CMA is also hosting a webinar to review these guidelines on Thursday, April 30, 2020. The webinar is free to all interested parties as part of CMA's ongoing support for physicians during the COVID-19 public health emergency.