BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- State Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, sent a letter to Gov. Kate Brown Thursday evening, asking her to work with Central Oregon health professionals, officials and hospitals to let them resume "necessary and essential" medical and health care services as soon as May 1.
Here's the full text of her letter:
Dear Governor Brown,
Thanks to decisions you have made, actions of our state and local governments and the willingness of Oregonians to embrace social distancing and guidelines under Stay Home, Stay Safe, Oregon is making progress in defeating COVID-19. Here in Central Oregon, we have stayed at home, flattened the curve and saved lives. Each and every day I am in awe of the sacrifices my neighbors are making to protect and save the lives of others.
I believe it is now time for you to slowly and carefully begin lifting regulations that have essentially shut down access to health care and medical procedures in Central Oregon for anything unrelated to COVID-19. I recognize that this may not be appropriate for every region of the state, but in communities like Central Oregon, it is possible to restore access to hospitals and surgery centers so patients can receive procedures they need and medical professionals can begin to get back to caring and healing their patients. Frankly, there is no group of people I trust more to model safe and appropriate behavior in restarting some normalcy to daily life than those who are trained in caring for others and preventing the spread of disease.
I am confident that leaders within the health care and medical fields, in consultation with state and local public health officials, can work together to determine the appropriate guidelines and specific procedures to govern this process. I am already concerned that the term “elective” medical procedure may imply something that is somehow unnecessary for those needing or wanting the procedure. In fact, we are not referring to cosmetic surgery, in many cases, these procedures are essential for people to live their daily lives. Further delaying necessary procedures will have long term physical and mental health impacts for real people.
Our health care workers are on the front lines of combatting this battle. But our health care industry and networks of medical professionals are also enduring some of the greatest economic damage from efforts to combat the COVID-19. This economic damage not only hurts those working in hospitals and numerous medical fields, it is inflicting incredible hardships on those Oregonians to receive the health care attention they need.
For certain, any lifting of restrictions in the healthcare field would need to be conditioned and balanced against the current and projected rates of COVID-19 cases in our region, status of available PPE and surge capacity in our hospitals and clinics. But for example, as of today, there are three COVID-19 patients at St. Charles Hospital and an entire floor of the hospital closed in preparation for a large surge that may not materialize. Meanwhile, hundreds of people await surgeries that could potentially be done safely and expeditiously within normal hospital and ambulatory surgery center capacities within the responsible easing of current limitations. Simply waiting until June 15th to open up these facilities may not be necessary.
I urge you to assemble a team of private and public health care leaders to develop a phased in approach and strict guidelines under which current restrictions could be lifted as early as May 1st, so that health care and medical professionals can begin providing care and patients can begin receiving the treatments they need. It is important we return autonomy of practice back to our medical professionals.
I appreciate that these decisions are not easy nor the solutions simple. But I am confident that with the combined talents, wisdom and judgement of our health care professionals, we can begin to take this first step toward restarting something resembling normal life for those in our community in need of medical and health care procedures.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.