Sunday, May 17, 2020

OCPA column: Lives and livelihoods are decimated by surgery bans

Lives and livelihoods are decimated by surgery bans
By Jonathan Small

The U.S. health care system is starting to collapse, and lives and livelihoods are being endangered and lost. The cause of this malady is easy to diagnose: excessive government restrictions imposed in the name of fighting COVID-19. The cure is simple: Lift the government restrictions on society, including those impacting provisions of much-needed medical care.

Due to COVID-19, many states imposed bans on “elective” surgeries in response, which were even labelled “non-critical luxuries.”

This was done to save beds for COVID-19 patients and preserve personal protective equipment.

Sadly, these onerous government orders put many medical providers on the verge of bankruptcy and caused real harm, including death, for patients nationwide. And it turned out the COVID-19 hospitalizations never appeared in the numbers projected, so those extra hospital beds were not needed.

One local cardiologist, Dwayne A. Schmidt, recently noted Oklahoma’s ban included patients with large, high-risk aneurysms. One of Schmidt’s patients suffered a life-changing heart attack at home after his surgery was delayed.

I personally know stories of a young man whose body suffered and weakened because he could not get the surgery he needed. I also know personally of a woman who faced the danger of not having a timely aortic valve replacement.

The ban has also destroyed the finances of many health care providers. Now mass layoffs and furloughs are underway. Becker’s Hospital CFO Report says 256 hospitals across the nation have furloughed employees. The providers laying off medical workers include Mercy, which is furloughing employees across a four-state system that includes Oklahoma, Poteau-based Eastern Oklahoma Medical Center, Integris Health in Oklahoma City, and HillCrest HealthCare System in Tulsa.

A report by the American Academy of Family Physicians has predicted most counties in the country could face a shortage of family medicine providers if coronavirus restrictions continue through June because doctors will be forced to permanently close their doors.

Even so, Oklahomans are fortunate that our state’s “elective” surgery ban has been lifted. People in other states are not so lucky. For the sake of lives and livelihoods, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has been forced to file a lawsuit on behalf of three medical practices to challenge Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order that continues to ban “elective” procedures in that state.

The announcement of the lawsuit noted one Michigan patient forced to postpone gallbladder surgery has now developed gangrene. Michigan physician Jordan Warnsholz warned the government shutdown “has put my patients directly at risk.”

A policy that causes the collapse of health care infrastructure while increasing the lethality of non-COVID-19 medical conditions is a policy that should be abandoned; let’s pray that happens immediately.

Jonathan Small serves as president of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.


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