Jul 1, 2020 - Health

Arizona announces coronavirus triage plan amid surging cases

A patient is taken from an ambulance to the emergency room of a hospital in the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City

A patient is taken to the hospital in the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City in Arizona in May. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP

Disability advocates in Arizona are criticizing a decision by the state allowing hospitals to activate a Crisis Standards of Care Plan that enables statewide triage protocols for acute care facilities.

Why it matters: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said at a briefing the policy would help combat surging coronavirus cases. But disability rights groups issued a statement Tuesday urging health officials to revise the plan because they said it "could result in discriminatory denial of life-saving healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"It's not needed today, but we’re anticipating that it will be there in the future. This is our time to act to save and protect as many Arizona lives as possible."
— Ducey's comments at Monday's briefing

What they're saying: The Arizona Center for Disability Law said it wrote to the health department earlier this year asking officials to modify the CSC guidelines "to incorporate explicit nondiscrimination requirements and provide for reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities."

  • However, these changes weren't incorporated into the guidelines and it received no response from health officials, the group said.

The other side: A petition from medical providers, signed by more than 1,100 people, asked state leaders to "utilize crisis care standards" because they say they are working under "a huge strain on an already stressed hospital system."

  • The petition, which also calls for the stay-at-home order that expired in May to be reinstated, notes the Crisis Standards of Care Plan (CSC) is "something that most of us, when choosing our career, thought we would never be doing," noting it was usually only implemented in extreme situations in the U.S., such as terrorist attacks."
  • Arizona hospitals asked the state health department last Friday to formally activate the CSC. An Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association spokesperson told KPNX, "Moving to crisis standards of care will allow consideration of regulatory waivers as well as additional liability protections."

The big picture: Ducey announced at Monday's press conference he was ordering bars, clubs, movie theaters, waterparks and gyms to close for 30 days in response to spiking cases.

  • More than 79,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the state, with over 4,600 new cases on Tuesday, per the Arizona Department of Health Services. More than 1,600 people have died from the virus in Arizona.
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