Board Lifts Some Non-Urgent Surgery Restrictions – What You Need to Know
By David Doolittle

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Beginning at 11:59 pm (CT) tonight, two restrictions on non-urgent, elective surgeries and procedures that had been put in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic in Texas will be lifted.

Gov. Greg Abbott on April 17 extended until May 8 an executive order on surgeries and procedures not deemed medically necessary. The restrictions had been in place since late March.

However, as part of a larger plan to reopen Texas businesses and return to some economic normalcy, two exceptions to the order will allow non-urgent, elective surgeries or procedures if:

  • The procedure, if performed in accordance with the commonly accepted standard of clinical practice, would not deplete the hospital capacity or the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to cope with the COVID-19 disaster; or
  • The surgery or procedure occurs in a licensed health care facility that has certified with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission that it will reserve at least 25% of its hospital capacity for treating COVID-19 patients, accounting for their range of clinical severity; and that the facility will not request PPE from any public source, whether federal, state, or local, during the COVID-19 disaster. 

“Many doctors and nurses have been sidelined because of the need to postpone non-essential medical procedures. That was done to free up hospital capacity and the PPE needed to treat COVID-19 patients. … It is time to allow those doctors and nurses to return to work,” Governor Abbott said last week. “However, it must be done in ways to ensure that we will be able to treat COVID-19 patients.”

The Texas Medical Board today adopted emergency rules to follow the governor’s revised order and published a frequently asked questions (FAQ) document to help you understand the exceptions and what they mean for your practice.

The FAQ provides an analysis to help guide physicians through the determination process. Questions in the FAQ also include:

  • Should I reschedule non-urgent, elective in-patient, out-patient, and office-based surgeries and procedures?
  • Is there a mandatory reporting requirement for TMB licensees when the TMB licensee knows or suspects another TMB licensee of violating the governor’s new order like there was for his original order?
  • What is not included in the term “procedure”?
  • Can I be sued, fired, or otherwise retaliated against for filing a complaint?
  • How long will this prohibition on non-urgent elective surgeries last?
  • What should I do if I determine a surgery or procedure is necessary and will not violate the governor’s new order?
  • If a complaint is received, how will TMB determine if the surgery or procedure met the requirements of the governor’s new order?

If you are looking for more guidance on whether to proceed with a procedure or surgery, the TMA COVID-19 Task Force has created a document that provides links to COVID-19 resources, including state and federal guidance as well as specialty societies that have published resource pages. Question 14 in the TMB FAQ document includes additional links.

The Texas Medical Association Office of the General Counsel is studying the exceptions and tomorrow will publish a white paper explaining what it means for Texas physicians.

Meantime, you can find the latest news, resources, and government guidance on the coronavirus outbreak by visiting TMA’s COVID-19 Resource Center regularly.

Last Updated On

April 23, 2020

Originally Published On

April 21, 2020

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David Doolittle

Editor

(512) 370-1385

Dave Doolittle is editor of Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. Dave grew up in Austin, where he attended culinary school as well as the University of Texas. He spent years covering Central Texas for the Austin American-Statesman newspaper. He is the father of two girls, a proud Longhorn, and an avid motorsports fan.

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