Dear Governor Abbott,
Multiple Republican states have stayed open throughout this coronavirus crisis. Patients in those states have been able to get the immediate care which they need. Nine Republican States have kept their economies open, with access to necessary medical care, during this crisis. Why not Texas? In South Dakota, the Republican Governor Kristi Noem has obtained enough hydroxychloroquine for early treatment of its residents against coronavirus, but Texas has not done this for its residents.
In Texas, countless numbers of patients have been prevented from obtaining medically necessary care for a prolonged period. For example, your shutdown order has interfered with basic medical operations by surgeons, biopsies for women with breast cancer, and even simple out-patient care related to hormone treatment. We have physician members of our organization who have been harassed by the Texas Medical Board for merely providing medical care sought by their patients during this time. This care has not interfered in any way with any efforts related to COVID-19, and there is no valid reason to block it. Simply because these procedures are not being done on an “emergency basis” does not mean that they are not medically necessary procedures meant to preserve and improve the health of Texas patients.
Moreover, it is the physician who is in the best position to determine when a procedure should be performed for a myriad of reasons, such as the potential for worsening of the patient’s condition. To punish physicians for exercising their best judgment, in light of their observations and knowledge of the patient, is an egregious and unwarranted intrusion into the physician/patient relationship.
These actions are hurting Texans in other unforeseen ways. We are hearing that insurance companies are denying authorizations for procedures as a result of the Executive Order and TMB regulations.
Now is the time to end policies that are harmful to both physicians and their patients.
Therefore we are respectfully requesting that you take three actions:
- Rescind Executive Order GA-09, the prohibition against performing surgeries and medical procedures that the medical board deems “not immediately necessary.” Physicians, not bureaucrats, are in the best position to make decisions, in consultation with their patients, about the timing of treatments.
- Instruct the Texas Medical Board (TMB) to cease investigations against physicians and facilities that have cared for patients in the time following the order’s issuance.
- Issue a new Executive Order rescinding 22 TAC §187.57(c), 22 TAC §178.4(d), overly broad and punitive regulations that the TMB put into effect following EO GA-09.
It is now exceedingly clear that the ban on procedures has caused much unintended harm to both patients and the professionals caring for them.
Patients are suffering from conditions that can be healed, if physicians were free to heal them. Independent medical practices, surgery centers, and even some hospitals lie fallow at grave risk of being closed down permanently. Instead of taking care of patients, physicians are having to spend time and financial resources that are needed to pay staff and finance operations to fend off attacks from Texas Medical Board bureaucrats.
Continuing the current shutdown of the medical industry, and punitive investigations against physicians simply for treating patients, is serving no public policy interest; it is contrary to the best interests of Texans.
It is also concerning that the one procedure subject to the ban that a federal judge has attempted to protect access to is abortion, a procedure that ends life. In a just world it would be life-preserving care that courts would protect. Therefore, AAPS is exploring options for seeking an injunction on behalf of patients and physicians who are being harmed by the current Executive Order and related TMB regulations.
Thank you for considering this urgent request.
Jane M. Orient, MD