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VHHA Statement on Governor Northam’s Decision to Allow Scheduled Medical Procedures to Resume

Expresses "the hospital community’s gratitude to Governor Northam and his Administration for the incredible partnership and collaboration of this unified COVID-19 response"

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From the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA):

The Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association (VHHA), an alliance of 27 health systems representing 110 hospitals across the Commonwealth, is deeply appreciative of Governor Ralph Northam’s announcement today that scheduled medical procedures, which have been postponed for more than one month due to COVID-19 concerns, will be allowed to resume as of May 1. Governor Northam and his Administration have been engaged, collaborative partners throughout the response to the pandemic as we all have worked together to safeguard public health and safety. As the Governor indicated today, Virginians who need medical procedures, surgeries, and preventive care should know that it is safe to seek treatment at hospitals, which have ample capacity to provide that medical care and also treat patients impacted by COVID-19.

Below is a copy of the remarks offered by Dr. Michael P. McDermott, the President and CEO of Fredericksburg-based Mary Washington Healthcare and the Chairman of VHHA’s Board of Directors, during today’s news conference with Governor Northam:

Good afternoon. I’m Dr. Mike McDermott, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Mary Washington Healthcare in Fredericksburg, Virginia. And I’m Chairman of the Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association’s Board of Directors. During this pandemic, I have also had the privilege of serving as Chairman of the VHHA COVID-19 Committee and as Co-Chair of the joint Virginia Department of Health, VHHA COVID-19 Committee. 

I’d like to start today by also expressing my gratitude to the Governor and the Administration for the Executive Order addressing some of the liability issues that could arise in response to this COVID-19 crisis. I want to start by also expressing the hospital community’s gratitude to Governor Northam and his Administration for the incredible partnership and collaboration of this unified COVID-19 response in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This has been an inclusive process. And it involves countless stakeholders and diverse perspectives as we all work together to protect Virginians from this highly contagious virus.

Everyone involved in this effort recognizes that this pandemic has had a significant effect on the Commonwealth, this nation, and the world. That includes the many patients and families that have been directly affected by COVID-19, and the frontline health care providers and first responders who continue to give their all in the fight against this illness. But the effects of this very serious situation also extend well beyond that. It has touched everyone in some way. 

Having worked closely with the Governor and his team, I know that Governor Northam’s focus throughout these unprecedented and trying times has been exactly where it should be – on public safety and on the health of our communities across Virginia. 

As we have worked through the many challenges associated with this pandemic – from access to testing and personal protective equipment to ensuring adequate treatment capacity and many other issues – the Governor has been a steadfast ally in this coordinated response effort.

Because this is uncharted territory in many respects, we have all had to make adjustments as this pandemic has unfolded and shifted on a daily basis. Early on in the process, Virginia hospitals took the precautionary step of postponing non-emergency medical procedures to preserve PPE and to create additional treatment capacity in our facilities. This step taken by the hospitals was consistent with Governor Northam’s later order calling for a halt to such procedures throughout the Commonwealth.  

When we talk about non-emergency procedures, I think it’s important to define what we mean. They include things like cancer surgeries and many other scheduled procedures and forms of preventative care that are important to the health of patients who need these types of medical treatment. 

While those scheduled procedures have been on hold, Virginia’s hospitals and health care providers have been working diligently to care for COVID-19 patients and to secure the necessary supplies and resources, such as PPE and expanded testing capability, to support patient care during the response effort. 

Throughout this ordeal, the Commonwealth and health care providers have actively monitored the real world conditions and situational demands caused by COVID-19. As we consider the current situation, and the other medical needs of Virginia patients, we now believe the time is right to chart a path to begin providing non-emergency, scheduled procedures to people who need that care in inpatient and outpatient settings to improve their health outcomes. 

Virginia hospitals have more than 5,000 available beds to meet patient needs and continue the care for those impacted by COVID-19. Access to expanded testing continues to be an area of focus for the Governor and for health care providers, as are PPE supplies. 

Our hospitals follow best practice care and infection prevention protocols and are exceedingly safe facilities. It is important for all Virginians to know that if you need care, please do not hesitate to receive care to improve your health outcome. The hospital community will work within the federal, state, and specialty group framework to guide us as we prepare to move forward with resuming scheduled procedures. This framework positions us to safely and responsibly take these next steps in a manner that is consistent with health care best practices. 

As we proceed in this direction, we will continue to work closely with Governor Northam and his Administration to monitor the number of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and other conditions, to track testing and PPE supplies, and to protect the safety of our frontline caregivers as we work to slow the spread of this disease. And working together, we will be ready to adjust our approach in response to new challenges we may be confronted with as we continue to fight this very serious virus while meeting the health needs of our fellow Virginians. 

Thank you.