Editorial: Timely guidance?

Timely guidance?

New Yorkers learned late December 6 exactly which hospitals around the state would be subject to Governor Kathy Hochul’s Executive Order limiting certain elective surgeries and procedures beginning roughly 36 hours later, on December 9.

The order initially exploded out of Albany seemingly moments after South Africa’s first report of Covid-19’s Omicron variant. We recognize and appreciate Governor Hochul’s proactive effort, but there’s a big disconnect at play reminiscent of just about every Covid-19-related Executive Order her predecessor issued during the earliest and deepest days of the pandemic.

The problem as we see it: Albany reacts immediately to a shift in the pandemic paradigm with a press-worthy executive order, then promises the entities affected by the executive order that they’ll follow up soon with guidance on exactly how to follow the often-amorphous language contained therein.
“Soon,” many times, means “at the last second.”

We saw it plenty of times under Governor Cuomo’s Covid-19 orders, issued with oratory flourish that bordered on the threatening. Hospitals, schools, nursing homes, restaurants, retailers, gyms, and every other public conveyance watched those Cuomo briefings daily to find out if — and rarely how — the announcement of the day would affect them. And as we’ve since learned, the Department of Health sometimes did not know until the briefing announcement that they had a new, giant ASAP project tossed on their already toppling desks.

Until Monday, hospitals, Bassett Healthcare among them, could not say with official certainty on how to answer the question as to whether they can offer this service or that beginning less than three days later.

Even the guidance on what constitutes an ‘elective’ procedure differs from 2020, when Governor Cuomo pretty much shuttered any non-Covid-19 activity in every hospital around the state. This time around, even those hospitals limited under the new guidance may perform certain procedures that they were barred from offering in 2020.

Add to that the likelihood that facilities limited under the executive order may change as staffing and bed availability changes. Governor Hochul said initially that her new order comes, in part, as a result of the staffing crisis that resulted, in part, from her earlier order requiring health care workers to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

We do not dispute that order and applaud her decision to stick to it, the ensuing crisis notwithstanding.
We recognize, too, that orders coming out of Albany and various local governments are well-intended measures rooted in an effort to keep us all safe. But with every new rule comes another enforcement requirement for the facilities charged with implementing the orders.

Just this week, outgoing New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new order to take effect only a few days before he leaves office: a vaccine mandate for all private sector workers, and an extension of the City’s proof-of-vaccination status for indoor dining and entertainment venues to include children between the ages of 5 and 11. Again: well-meaning, but left to the businesses themselves to implement and enforce. Surely other municipalities will want to follow the Mayor’s lead.

To that end, we salute Bassett Healthcare and all the providers in New York and elsewhere that continue to process on a moment’s notice the cavalcade of executive orders and ensuing guidance. We applaud their assurance, reported here last week, that they “don’t want anyone to put off their screenings or procedures.”

Stay in touch with your healthcare provider. Be safe. Be well.


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