Rural hospitals and dentists experience crunch under Illinois’ stay at home order

(The Center Square) – Guidance sent to hospitals and other health care facilities from the Illinois Department of Public Health sets out various criteria they must meet to start elective procedures May 11.

Postponing elective procedures was a move to ensure hospitals wouldn’t get overrun if there was a surge of COVID-19 patients, officials have said.

WGN reports at least $7.4 million was spent on 3,000 beds at McCormick Place in Chicago as a “just-in-case” hospital. But the facility saw only 24 mild COVID patients. Other temporary alternative facilities elsewhere didn’t see any, the report said.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said hospitals in his rural district are already hemorrhaging jobs due to a lack of elective procedures. He says they need to open sooner than May 11.

“So they’re pushing all of these elective surgeries off that were in the hopper, in the cue to get done, and so it’s hard to say how much more pain and suffering it’s causing the potential patients there pushing these off,” Halbrook said.

Near Mattoon, Gary Stephen, who runs a jail and prison ministry, said health care facilities are “dying.”

“Goodness, yeah, it’s going to do a lot of damage,” Stephen said. “There’s going to be long-term issues, unintended consequences to this. IT seems to be doing a lot more damage than people can see.”

The IDPH guidance includes regional occupancy requirements for elective inpatient procedures to have no less than 20 percent available capacity for ICU beds, surgical beds and ventilators, among other requirements.

The guidance also said facilities must test each patient for COVID-19 within 72 hours of a scheduled procedure. They must then self-quarantine until the day of surgery.

“Elective procedures may be suspended again as determined by the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health in the event of the following circumstances: a) rapid resurgence or a second wave of COVID-19; b) decrease in statewide hospital COVID-19 testing levels,” the guidance said.

The Illinois Department of Public Health published regional hospital utilization data online (

Dentistry is also impacted by the governor’s stay-at-home orders.

The Illinois State Dental Association wrote the governor a letter April 20 acknowledging almost all of the state’s dental offices were closed to all but emergency procedures.

They said national polling found 4 percent of dental practices won’t be able to sustain their practice with the shutdown through April. The number jumps to 18 percent if there’s a June end date.

The following weekend, Pritzker said he never closed dentists offices.

“We actually never closed dentists or doctors offices in the EO,” Pritzker said.

He then came back two days later and apologized for the confusion he created.

“Our executive order did not close dental offices, but IDPH has issued guidance to dentists focusing their work on more emergency procedures,” Pritzker said.

As of Thursday, the final day of the governor’s most recently filed stay-at-home order, the governor has yet to file a signed, updated order but said last week he would extend it through the end of May.

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