Arizona hospital officials Thursday reacted to COVID-19 measures Governor Ducey did - and did not - take this week.
Earlier this week, Hospital leaders around the state sent a letter to Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ, recommending increased mitigation efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. The letter notes that the hospital chief medical officers "...all are in agreement with data that shows we are approaching a life‐threatening COVID‐19 surge."
The letter, dated December 1st, recommends the following measures be enacted within 72 hours to limit the spread of COVID-19:
- Stop indoor dining
- No gatherings of greater than 25 people
- Stop group athletic activities, including club sports
- Bi‐directional COVID‐19 roadmap execution and enforcement—for reopenings and closings
- Curfew after 10 pm
The letter is signed by executives and chief medical officers at more than a half dozen Arizona health systems, including Banner Health, Dignity Health and HonorHealth.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Governor Ducey announced several steps to address the coronavirus surge, including an additional $60 million for hospital staffing, but did not enact the measures urged by the hospital leaders.
"We felt that there were some opportunities in terms of more serious mitigation strategies that could have been pursued, and those were outlined in that letter," said TMC Healthcare Vice President of Community Benefit Julia Strange. "We're hopeful that the governor is continuing to think about those options."
Tucson Medical Center is among the hospitals which signed onto the letter, with their chief medical officer listed with hospital executives from other systems.
"I do think it was a bold letter, I do not think it was unprecedented in terms of how we've been communicating and the stories we've been telling," Strange said.
Governor Ducey was asked about the letter at Wednesday's press conference.
"The announcements today are the steps that we're taking at this time to slow the spread of the virus," Governor Ducey said Wednesday, noting the measures he announced. "Of course we're listening to all the leaders in our community."
ABC15 asked Strange if she felt the Governor made a mistake by not implementing the measures urged by hospital leaders.
"I'm not in a position to say whether the Governor made a mistake," she said. "I am here to say that there's a lot of choices and a lot of different levers to pull."
Strange encouraged people to wear masks and social distance. Without the recommended mitigation steps, Strange believes the healthcare system is going to reach capacity.
"We would prefer that individuals comply with these health recommendations on their own, without a government mandate, that would be ideal," she said. "When that fails to occur, then for the public good, you have to step forward and say we need to take steps to compel people to comply."
ABC15 reached out to all of the hospital systems that signed onto the letter to get their reaction to measures the Governor did - and did not - announce.
BANNER HEALTH CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER DR. MARJORIE BESSEL
Mitigation works to reduce uncontrolled spread of the virus, which is what Arizona is currently experiencing. A reference on mitigation that was reviewed prior to sending the letter is can be found here:
We know mitigation works and would support any mitigation actions that help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Stephanie L Jackson MD
Senior Vice President, Chief Quality and Clinical Value Officer, HonorHealth
"The precautions outlined in the letter to Dr. Christ are evidenced-based recommendations that major Arizona health system Chief Medical Officers believe will help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and decrease the impending risk of healthcare demand exceeding supply. These recommendations, paired with wearing properly fitting masks, social distancing, washing hands and staying home when ill will help us to avoid overcapacity conditions in healthcare systems across Arizona."
Valleywise Health is grateful to Governor Ducey as well as Dr. Christ and ADHS for working swiftly to provide additional resources to Arizona hospitals as we work to mitigate COVID-19 and care for our residents. We know mitigation works, and support the actions necessary to protect all Arizonans.
Along with many other hospitals and healthcare providers throughout the country, we are concerned for the health of our community and the increase of COVID-19 cases and resulting hospitalizations. We are in support of additional mitigation efforts to help slow the spread of the virus and to prevent Arizona’shealthcare systems from becoming overwhelmed. We will continue to communicate and work with the state and local health departments and elected officials and provide them with recommendations we believe could help to flatten the curve. Additionally, we urge the community to continue to practice the behaviors known to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. It is up to all of us to keep our community safe and healthy throughout this pandemic.
Pam Kehaly: President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (Health Choice Arizona)
“Our current reality is that COVID-19 numbers aren’t good, and the projections are alarming. At this point, all reasonable safety measures need to be taken to protect the health of Arizonans. We will continue to emphasize safety and remain hopeful as we head into the upcoming holidays.”