LINCOLN, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts announced Thursday that inpatient Class D and Class E elective surgeries can resume starting Friday after a Directed Health Measure temporarily suspended them. The measure blocked all elective surgeries that could wait more than four weeks without significantly impacting the patient.
But Dr. James Lawler, a University of Nebraska Medical Center infectious disease expert, said the repeal of the measure "doesn't reflect any fact our hospital systems are any less strained than they were a couple of weeks ago."
"I'm not necessarily sure it's going to change decision-making at the individual hospital or health system level," he said.
Nebraska Medicine said the move will have no impact on its operations. "We will still be suspending some elective surgeries requiring an overnight hospital stay," said a Nebraska Medicine spokesperson.
Methodist Health System said, "Not much is really going to change for us. We will continue to evaluate the situation on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis. Bed capacity is an ongoing, fluid situation as is the demand/need for surgical procedures in our hospitals," a spokesperson said.
Gov. Ricketts announced that COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state have fallen below 10% of statewide hospital bed capacity (in a 7-day rolling average).
Lawler called that metric "incredibly arbitrary."
"The proportion of beds occupied by COVID-19 patients reflects only a part of the overall burden on the health system," Lawler said.
He said hospital census numbers have been "incredibly high" for the majority of 2021.
"While we have fewer hospitalized COVID-19 patients than we've had at our prior peek in the fall of 2020...our hospitals are still just as strained and just as full," Lawler added.
Because the rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations are below the 10% threshold, the online Nebraska Hospital Capacity Dashboard will return to a weekly schedule as long as coronavirus-related hospitalizations stay below the threshold, according to the governor's press release.
The next update to the dashboard will occur on Wednesday, October 27.
"The Nebraska Hospital Capacity Dashboard will subsequently be updated once per week on Wednesdays and will no longer include demographic data and county-specific statistics," the press release says.