TEXAS (KXAN) — Beginning Monday, all health care providers have been ordered to halt all non-essential medical procedures, per an executive order issued by Governor Greg Abbott.
The statewide prohibition will free up hospital bed space and will reserve limited personal protective equipment (PPE) for doctors who are facing national shortages in the battle against COVID-19.
This executive order does not apply for procedures deemed medically necessary to correct serious medical conditions or to preserve a life of a patient.
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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a stern warning to medical professionals on Monday calling for statewide compliance. Failing to adhere to the new order could result in penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time, Paxton reports.
For doctors in Central Texas, it has hurt their practice, employees and patients.
Dr. Randall Shultz, an orthopedic surgeon with Texas Orthopedics, has canceled twenty surgeries planned for the next two weeks.
Dr. Craig Thomajan, a podiatrist at Austin Foot and Ankle, said he has furloughed 13 of his employees and is now working with a skeleton crew.
Even so, all doctors KXAN spoke to agreed that this was a smart decision to protect Texans.
“If we don’t follow these guidelines, we may be looking at a catastrophe we may never recover from,” Dr. Schultz said.
“We need to preserve our personal protective equipment and our personnel and have them ready for the battle that’s about to hit,” said Dr. David Fleeger, the president of the Texas Medical Association.
Check-ups can still happen, but many doctors will be transitioning to tele-medicine to care for their patients. Some have even closed their practices completely. Call your doctor’s office if you have questions about their plans.
Many specialists are also preparing for the possibility that they will be called to treat COVID-19.
“I will probably have to brush up on some skills that haven’t been used in a very long time,” Dr. Schultz said.
“If we can take care of it in our offices, we keep that crunch from happening in our Emergency departments,” Dr. Fleeger said.
Tonight on KXAN News at 10 p.m., Alex Caprariello shares the long-term consequences this may have if you have non-essential medical procedures planned for the future.