Healthcare workers have been laid off and furloughed by the tens-of-thousands across our state and country. This is resulting from healthcare facilities being required to neglect “elective” patient procedures that are not related to COVID-19. This means that millions of patients across our country are failing to receive the medical care they need in a timely manner, all in the name of “needing to prepare” for COVID-19 patient care.
The public and some political leaders need to understand the term “elective” can be misleading. Elective does not mean “unnecessary.” It means capable of being scheduled or rescheduled. We can assure you the patients who have called our offices do not consider their procedures as elective. Examples of so-called “elective” procedures include mammograms, replacing a faulty heart valve or removing a cancerous tumor.
Initially, Illinois leaders made the right decision to cancel all “elective” surgeries, based on what they were told the overwhelming need would be at every hospital to treat COVID-19 patients. In reality, the promise that our hospitals would be overwhelmed wasn’t accurate. Actually, they have been underwhelmed, leaving many hospitals themselves now on life support. Now that the models those decisions were based on have proven to be wrong, it’s time to make some immediate changes in this moratorium. It’s time to open hospitals back up, bring furloughed staff back and start treating patients that need care again. All of this can be accomplished while continuing to keep in place the COVID-19 safeguard protocols that have been established.
And it’s not just suburban or rural hospitals that are affected by this situation. For instance, 65 percent of the hospital beds at Mayo Clinic are empty, as are 75 percent of their operating rooms. This is one of the world’s premier medical centers. If facilities like Mayo Clinic are empty, imagine how dire the situation is across Illinois’ healthcare system.
Out of the entire country, only 35 states put protocols in place to halt elective procedures. Some states, like Wisconsin, have since lifted their moratorium, realizing that the COVID-19 need never materialized. In the future, if there ever was a spike in COVID-19 cases, let the local hospitals, who deal with the infectious disease as part of their normal routine, work in conjunction with the health departments to address any needs by region. Then each hospital, based on actual need, could reschedule their “elective” procedures.
“One size fits all” decisions, whether from Springfield or Washington D.C., fail to understand that in a diverse state like Illinois, the needs and solutions in dealing with COVID-19 vary greatly. Rockford, Bloomington and Peoria are NOT the same as a metro hot-spot like Chicago. Treating them the same is what has led to many nearly empty hospitals now financially struggling.
It is time to allow hospitals to get back to delivering healthcare.
State Senator Dave Syverson
State Senator Sue Rezin
State Senator Brian Stewart
Representing 20 Northern Illinois counties.