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What is an “elective” medical procedure?

Governor Greg Abbott recently issued an executive order that requires medical professionals to postpone all surgeries and procedures that are “not immediately medically necessary to correct a serious medical condition of, or to preserve the life of, a patient who without immediate performance of the surgery or procedure would be at risk for serious adverse medical consequences or death, as determined by the patient’s physician.”

There are exceptions. For example, the executive order does not apply to procedures that would not deplete personal protective equipment or hospital capacity. Office based visits may also be exempted, as long as they are done within accordance of the standard protocols.

Those who fail to abide by these rules can face penalties. The Texas Medical Board (TMB) has stated it will investigate all valid complaints of a violation. This could result in a temporary suspension or restriction. Additional criminal penalties for a violation can include a fine of up to $1,000 or 180 days incarceration.

The TMB has recommended physicians consider postponing procedures that could, under normal circumstances, wait a few weeks. Those who move forward with a procedure and are concerned it may come under scrutiny are wise to keep clear documentation to back up their decision.

As noted by the TMB, the coronavirus pandemic is a “fluid and rapidly evolving situation.” As a result, the guidance for actions during this time changes on a regular basis. It is wise for medical professionals to stay abreast on the most recent emergency rules and executive orders to help guide decisions that impact their practice. In some cases, it is beneficial to seek legal counsel to better ensure the practice’s interests are protected when navigating these uncertain times. 

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