Executive order causes confusion

OKEECHOBEE – From just about every person you ask about the meaning of Executive Order 20-72, issued on March 20, 2020, as it pertains to medical procedures, you will get a completely different opinion. As I began writing this story, I mentioned I was checking to see if chiropractors were open, and someone said, “Is there such a thing as an emergency chiropractor visit?”

There seems to be some confusion about the order, because many believe only emergency services are allowable under the order, but according to the Florida Medical Association’s interpretation, the prohibition is for unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedures or surgeries. According to them, the problem lies in the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) on elective procedures rather than saving it for the emergency procedures.

Some physicians have limited their practices to emergency visits only and many instituted telemedicine visits to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
ONe doctors office is leaving the choice up to the families. They have always had separate waiting rooms for well patients and for sick patients. They are screening as the patients come in to determine if they need masks or need to go straight to an exam room. Telehealth visits are also available.
Since most dental procedures require PPE, dentists were one of the first to be asked by the CDC and the American Dental Association to stop non-emergency or elective procedures.

The Florida Healthcare Law Firm attempted to get clarification on the order and the following was the result:

The following is a clarification by the Florida Medical Association (FMA).
The Florida Medical Association’s interpretation of Executive Order 20-72 is that only medically unnecessary, non-urgent or non-emergency procedures or surgeries are prohibited. This has been confirmed by staff at the Florida Department of Health in communications to the Florida Medical Association on March 23.

The Department of Health also confirmed that physicians can continue to see patients for purposes of evaluation and management. Telemedicine visits can continue unabated. Primary care practitioners can continue to see and treat patients with chronic and acute conditions, perform wellness exams, and provide mental health services, that do not consume personal protective equipment. Specialists can see patients for follow-up care and other non-surgical purposes.

The medical care prohibited under this order is:
• elective or non-medically necessary surgical procedures
• surgical procedures that can be postponed without putting the patient’s immediate health, safety or well-being at risk
• medical procedures that would consume personal protective equipment (PPE), that can be postponed without putting the patient’s immediate health, safety or well-being at risk.

According to the FMA, the new executive order does not really change anything when it comes to the practice of medicine.

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