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Gov. announces restart of all medical services in Washington

**Update. As of May 18 

The Governor has announced the state’s plan for all elective procedures to resume. Each medical or dental practice will assess their own readiness and their communities’ COVID-19 activity to determine whether, and to what degree, they will reopen. The proclamation requires that providers:

•Have appropriate PPE for workers
•If a certain area does have an outbreak, hospitals need to be prepared to surge their hospitals beds, staff and ventilators
•Implement social distancing and strong hygiene measures within their offices and hospitals
•Screen patients and visitors for symptoms
•Use their clinical judgement for what is considered necessary, using telemedicine when appropriate
•Implement policies to protect workers and seek their feedback

Readiness will be determined by the availability of PPE, hospital capacity and more. Read the full announcement here. 

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Gov. Jay Inslee relaxed restrictions on the existing order regarding non-urgent medical procedures. Last month, he issued Proclamation 20-24 due to unknowns about surge capacity and availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers. Providers across the state have significantly adjusted operations in response to the Proclamation.

Therefore, the Governor’s Office has issued clarity regarding some procedures that can go forward while still ensuring there is adequate capacity to deal with COVID-19.

As of April 29 the state of Washington:

  • Allows performance of all services considered “emergent” or “urgent” for which delay would result in worsening a life-threatening or debilitating prognosis.
  • Allows clinicians to use clinical judgment to determine the need for non-urgent or “elective” procedures, with the qualification that decisions prioritize harm to patients. The state does not provide a definition of “harm” and leaves assessment of harm up to the individual clinician but clinicians should consider if a patient's illness or injury is: causing significant pain, significant dysfunction in their daily life or work, or is either progressing, or at risk to progress.
  • Continues to limit healthcare services, procedures, and surgeries that, if delayed, will not cause harm to the patient within the next three months.
  • Mandates that performance of healthcare services, procedures and surgeries meet infection prevention and control standards, maintain appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies, as well as following Department of Health (DOH)-issued guidance on use of PPE. For permitted procedures requiring an overnight stay, hospitals may not exceed 80% of available bed capacity.

Before a clinician decides to move forward with a non-urgent medical procedure they should read the entirety of Proclamation 20-24 as it offers a level of detail not disclosed here. For any additional questions after reading, please contact Washington Medical Commission (WMC). During the COVID-19 pandemic, the fastest way to reach the WMC is via email provided at: wmc.wa.gov/contact-us.

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