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

The directed health measure suspends 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. 

"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."

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.

The measure says that the state health department finds that the "current hospital capacity and health care resources at the Nebraska Medical Center are reaching near capacity as noted in the activation of the NMC Crisis Standards of Care plan, and that the immediate implementation of the following Directed Health Measure is necessary to preserve sufficient hospital capacity and health care resources to ensure public health needs can be met." 

A number of health systems across the country are enacting crisis plans as they face the dual challenges of rising case counts fueled by the omicron COVID variant and a growing number of health care workers sidelined by their own or their relatives' infections.

No other hospital was named in the health measure. Many of the large hospitals in the state have been limiting surgeries and procedures that can wait for months as they have responded to increased demand for care of all types, including a high number of patients with COVID-19. 

Nebraska Medicine, Methodist and Lincoln's Bryan Health have been limiting elective procedures and surgeries requiring overnight stays since August. CHI Health also has been delaying cases that can safely wait. Bryan Health officials said Thursday that many of the elements in its crisis plan are in place and have been for some time, including redeploying staff and repurposing some clinical areas. 

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

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