Health Department Admits That Walz Order Prevented “Really Important Surgeries”

The Department of Health Commissioner says that if she could "roll back time," she'd change the wording of Walz's order that prevented "really important surgeries."

Tim Walz, Jan Malcolm
Tim Walz, Jan Malcolm

The head of the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Jan Malcolm, admitted that Governor Tim Walz’s coronavirus related shutdowns prevented “really important surgeries” from occurring.

Walz issued executive order 20-09 in March, banning all “elective” procedures to preserve ICU space for COVID-19 patients. By late April, it became apparent that this measure had both prevented patients from receiving life changing care and badly damaged the hospital industry, resulting in over a $1.4 billion in pay cuts at Mayo Clinic alone.

On Tuesday, Malcolm admitted that the language of 20-09 was a mistake, and that it prevented patients from receiving the care they needed.

“If I could roll back time I would not have had us use the word ‘elective’ procedures when talking about the original executive order,” she told reporters on a press call. She explained that while the order did allow for procedures that were “immediately urgent” to save a life, it also barred patients from receiving “very important, very medically important” care as well.

One example of this was the case of 4-year-old Claire Lindell, whose long anticipated operation to correct a spinal deformity and make it easier for her to breathe was postponed indefinitely after Walz’s order went into effect.

Since the order was lifted, Malcolm says that “cardiac, neurological, oncological, I mean really important surgeries have been happening” that were previously not allowed to occur.

“The resumption of services that had been deferred” is also the cause of Minnesota’s recent increased ICU use, not solely the coronavirus, she added. “What we’ve seen and heard about the differed really important procedures being done is part of what’s showing up in the ICU numbers,” Malcolm said. Walz allowed so called elective procedures to resume earlier this month.

258 Minnesotans were in ICU beds as a result of coronavirus, Tuesday, marking a spike in the need for intensive care resources, per a CBS affiliate.

Hospitals in the Twin Cities filled their ICUs to 87% Tuesday. However, the MDH’s Kris Ehresmann said “that it isn’t unusual for ICU beds to be 95% full during flu season,” on Tuesday’s press call.

“It’s not unusual for [ICU] systems to run close to that level [full capacity],” Malcolm echoed.