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Executive Order No. 145: Acknowledging a Drastic Decrease in the Spread of COVID-19, Governor Murphy Authorizes Resumption of Elective Surgeries

By: Cristina N. Hyde, JD

As of yesterday, May 26, 2020, the suspension of elective surgeries and invasive procedures deemed necessary to respond to Coronavirus 2019, has been rescinded.  Although the initial suspension was considered crucial to preserve the “capacity of the health care system to deal with the surge of COVID-19 cases,” Executive Order No. 145, acknowledges that the pandemic peaked in mid-April and that there has since been a “drastic decrease” in the rate of the virus’ spread.

Ambulatory Surgery Centers (ASCs) must be aware, however, that procedures may only proceed subject to “limitations and precautions” set forth in guidance and policies recently issued by the Department of Health in a Memorandum issued on May 19, 2020. In addition to stating that ASCs “shall not perform procedures on COVID-19 positive patients,” and requiring preliminary testing, self-quarantine and other preventative measures for those patients seeking procedures, the guidance requires all ASCs to maintain appropriate transfer agreements with an acute healthcare facility partner.

The guidance also contains several conditions that must be met prior to resuming elective surgery and invasive procedures.  These prerequisites include both the requirement that facilities comply with State and CDC guidelines to protect against the further spread of COVID-19 and that ASCs have a plan in place to modify operations in the event of a potential future surge.  They also reference the use of masks, screening of staff, social distancing, and the cleaning and disinfecting of the facility.

Therefore, prior to resuming elective surgeries and invasive procedures, protocols and procedures must be in place relating to:

  • The “flow of care” so as to allow for social distancing and the prioritization of the types of care provided.
  • The availability, conservation and proper use of personal protective equipment.
  • The availability of qualified staff as well as staff screening in order to ensure both staff and patient safety.
  • The implementation of appropriate disinfection protocols, supplies and equipment maintenance.
  • The limitation of visitors; recognizing the need to prioritize the safety of patients, support persons, and staff.
  • The appropriate discharge of patients.

Notably, the guidance also contains reporting requirements aimed at ensuring the ability of health cares systems to respond to a future surge in COVID-19 cases.

Insofar as Executive Order No. 145, allows the Department of Health and Division of Consumer Affairs to supplement or amend the guidelines at any time, we will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates, as necessary.

If you have any questions about these guidelines or would like assistance ensuring your facility is compliant, please do not hesitate to Contact Us.

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