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Medical, dental elective procedures postponed 60 days due to COVID-19

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

As of March 31, all military treatment facilities and dental treatment facilities will postpone elective surgeries and procedures for 60 days, the Department of Defense announced March 25.

The policy applies to all beneficiaries: active duty service members and their families, retirees, and Reserve and National Guard service members on active duty or a delayed effective date active duty order.

The policy is designed to meet three main objectives during the COVID-19 pandemic. First, to enhance the safety of military medical staff; second, to prolong supplies of personal protective equipment and ensure its availability for emergency use; and finally, to ensure military medical staff are available to provide care related to the pandemic.

Exceptions to the policy will be made for procedures a service member needs in order to be ready to deploy, as well as procedures a provider has determined cannot be delayed without causing harm. For these cases, the hospital or dental facility commander will determine if there is adequate capacity to safely authorize the procedure.

The DoD announcement follows the presidential direction on the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic: apply critical medical resources, such as staff and equipment, where they are most needed; and reduce the risk of exposure to the virus to DoD medical staff and beneficiaries. The executive order can be found here.

Beneficiaries impacted by this announcement will be contacted individually. Each facility will address concerns and provide guidance on rescheduling.

Q/A:

1. What does “elective” mean?

Elective surgeries and procedures are those that are not emergent or urgent and can be rescheduled at a later date. Examples include laser surgery, hernia repair, non-emergent back surgery, colonoscopies, and joint replacements.

2. What do I do if I really need my procedure?

Those who are impacted by this policy are encouraged to consult with their physician or dentist.

3. Are there exceptions to the policy?

Exceptions to the policy will be made for procedures a service member needs in order to be ready to deploy, as well as procedures a provider has determined cannot be delayed without causing harm. For these cases, the hospital or dental facility commander will determine if there is adequate capacity to safely authorize the procedure.

4. Who do I call if I have questions?

Work through your hospital or dental clinic. Each facility can address your concerns, and can provide guidance on rescheduling and how to proceed.

5. How will this impact the coronavirus outbreak?

In the executive order, the president stated: “To ensure that our healthcare system is able to surge capacity and capability to respond to the spread of COVID-19, it is critical that all health and medical resources needed to respond to the spread of COVID-19 are properly distributed to the nation’s healthcare system and others that need them most at this time.”

6. Are MTFs closing?

No. Military clinics and hospitals will remain open. This is specifically for elective surgeries and procedures. For those who may have COVID-19 symptoms, we encourage you to contact the Nurse Advice Line (800-874-2273, Option 1). You can also call your local military hospital or clinic to speak with a nurse. Connect to your team nurse by calling the facility’s appointment line, call your health care team directly or use secure messaging. If you’re enrolled in a TRICARE network provider, please call your doctor's office.

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