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Ricketts says Nebraska Medicine shouldn't perform non-emergency surgeries
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Ricketts says Nebraska Medicine shouldn't perform non-emergency surgeries

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Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said on Friday that the state has issued a new health measure suspending some categories of inpatient and outpatient surgeries at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

OMAHA — Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts on Friday said the state has issued a new health measure suspending some inpatient and outpatient surgeries at Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha a day after Nebraska Medicine began operating under its crisis plan.

The directed health measure suspends pre-scheduled, non-emergency surgeries — what are known as Class C, D and E inpatient and outpatient surgeries — at the medical center effective 5 p.m. Friday. The measure is expected to remain in place through Feb. 13.

Nebraska Medicine officials said Thursday that they were activating the crisis plan, known as crisis standards of care, for the first time in the health system's history in the face of a growing demand for health care and a shortage of staff to provide it. The health system is in the first stage of that plan.

"Hospitals that decide to operate under a crisis standard of care should not be performing non-emergency surgeries," Ricketts said in a statement. "Today's DHM makes sure the Nebraska Medical Center remains focused on prioritizing care for patients with the most urgent medical needs."

Nebraska Medicine enacts crisis plan amid COVID surge

Nebraska Medicine officials said in a statement Friday that the operational changes they announced Thursday are consistent with the directed health measure.

"The actions we are taking ensure we are prioritizing care for patients with the most urgent medical needs," officials said. "As outlined in the directed health measure, our medical providers will continue to make case-by-case determinations on surgeries and procedures that must be done to preserve the patient's life or physical health."

Health system officials said that because current operations are consistent with the health measure, any necessary care will not be delayed. "Patients should continue to access care as they've planned unless they hear from their physician," they said in the statement.

Nebraska Medicine officials said patients still can receive care at the health system's facilities. The goal behind activating the crisis plan, they said, was to provide flexibility in operations and staffing and to ensure the safety of patients and staff. The health system also enacted the plan to prepare for an anticipated further surge in COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant and the need for additional health care expected to come with it.

Nebraska Medicine, a private, nonprofit business that operates Nebraska Medical Center, is the clinical partner of the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

The new health measure comes as Douglas County on Friday reported 1,866 new cases of COVID-19, the highest one-day total since the beginning of the pandemic. In addition, 403 coronavirus patients were hospitalized in the Omaha metro area, a figure approaching the pandemic peak of 445, recorded in November 2020. Some 671 COVID-19 patients were hospitalized across Nebraska.

The health measure cites state law and administrative code as giving the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services the authority to order health measures to prevent the spread of communicable disease and illness.

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No other hospital was named in the health measure. 

Class D and E surgeries typically can wait for some weeks. But Class C procedures can include cancer surgeries.

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