Military medical facilities across the globe can resume elective procedures as long as their communities meet criteria outlined in new guidance to the services.
As the curve of infection flattens in many areas, officials are lifting restrictions put in place in March as the COVID-19 outbreak threatened to overwhelm the military health infrastructure. Procedures can resume as long as they can be safely performed, they are needed to maintain the deployability and readiness of service members, or delaying a procedure could increase the risk to the patient, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Tom McCaffrey wrote in a May 19 memorandum. The decision comes as the Defense Department starts planning for a return to more regular operations.
Base commanders are now able to lower their installation’s health protection condition if they see a sustained drop in cases. That means medical facility commanders can resume outpatient elective procedures while at health protection condition “Charlie” and inpatient procedures at HPCON “Bravo.”
The decision to increase the number of elective procedures must be based on the staffing levels at the facilities, availability of personal protective equipment, testing availability for staff, and the overall capacity of the healthcare system, including TRICARE, according to a Defense Department statement.
The adjustments are reversible if local conditions change, and facilities should continue to use virtual care when appropriate, according to the memo.