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Governor DeSantis’ order on COVID-19 and Non-essential Elective Medical Procedures

florida governor's orders for healthcare businesses during corona virus outbreakBy: Jeff Cohen

Florida’s Governor passed an Executive Order Friday which essentially shuts down all elective medical treatment.  The Order (20-72) only allows “non-urgent or non-emergency procedure or surgery which, if delayed, does not place a patient’s immediate health, safety, or wellbeing at risk, or will, if delayed, not contribute to the worsening of a serious or life-threatening medical condition.”

One multi-site client with a private equity partner called and explained that the PE firm was interpreting the Order in such a way which allowed the business to continue all operations (including those which in my view could not possibly be viewed as emergency or urgent).  I was shocked because (1) I could not match the business decision to the Order, and (2) the bulk of the patient base is very vulnerable to the virus. The business decision not only jeopardizes the health (lives) of patients and staff, but also puts the professional licenses of the licensed professionals at risk.  Even more, multi-site operators have to consider the “string of pearls” effect on them if in fact there is a reportable case at one site that is arguably out of compliance.  The report of one case of transmission at a single site makes all sites vulnerable, if only from a PR perspective.  And by that time, they likely have significant liability to deal with.

Drawing the line, as the Order requires, between “urgent/emergency” and non-urgent/non-emergency may not be as clear cut as hoped.  And the business implications are tough to swallow for every healthcare business and healthcare professional.  But drawing the line from a clinical perspective alone has to be the bar.  And failing to do so can have serious adverse consequences.  All such businesses struggling with clarity on how to apply the Order ought to confer with impartial advisors to help them draw the line.