On March 21, in an effort to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus and to preserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and to utilize hospital staffing, equipment, and bed capacity for the transition to the coronavirus emergency, the Louisiana Department of Health issued an updated notice mandating that, effective immediately, all medical and surgical procedures be postponed until further notice subject only to the following exceptions:
- Medical and surgical procedures are allowed in order to treat an “emergency medical condition” as defined at 42 C.F.R. § 489.24 (e., “(1) [a] medical condition manifesting itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain, psychiatric disturbances and/or symptoms of substance abuse) such that absence of immediate medical attention could reasonably be expected to result in (i) placing the health of the individual (or, with respect to a pregnant woman, the health of the woman or her unborn child) in serious jeopardy; (ii) [s]erious impairment to bodily functions; or (iii) [s]erious dysfunction of any bodily organ or part; or (2) [w]ith respect to a pregnant woman who is having contractions—(i) [t]hat there is inadequate time to effect a safe transfer to another hospital before delivery; or (ii) [t]hat transfer may pose a threat to the health or safety of the woman or unborn child); and
- Medical and surgical procedures are allowed to avoid further harms from an underlying condition or disease.
This updated notice supersedes an earlier notice issued by the Department that mandated postponement of all medical and surgical procedures that, in the medical opinion and judgment of the physician or other applicable healthcare professional acting within the scope of his/her license, could be safely postponed for a period of 30 days.
This updated notice further mandates that, in connection with healthcare services other than medical and surgical procedures and effective immediately, “all healthcare providers postpone all in-person healthcare services that can be safely postponed for 30 days.” In fulfilling this mandate, the updated notice also provides that healthcare providers (a) “shall use their best medical judgment within the scope of their license to make this determination,” (b) “shall consider the entire clinical picture when determining if a service can be safely postponed, including the consequences to the patient of postponement and the consequences to the healthcare system,” and (c) “[if] acting in good faith shall not be found to be in violation of this directive.”
Finally, the updated notice confirms that these mandates apply to all licensed health care facilities in Louisiana and all healthcare professionals licensed, certified, authorized, or permitted by any board, authority or commission under the Department.