News Story

Patients And Hospitals United On Elective Procedures Lockdown: It Could Kill Us

On May 3, state appeared to back down, but it’s getting sued anyway

An Oakland County man with a history of coronary disease says he’s lucky to be alive after a blood clot in his leg went virtually untreated for two weeks. It wasn’t treated, because through lockdown orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of Michigan had prohibited doctors and hospitals from performing so-called elective medical procedures.

Jerome Drew said he was finally hospitalized after going to a Pontiac emergency room in mid-April for a precipitous drop in body temperature, accompanied by the affected leg and foot becoming discolored.

Drew said he spent 48 hours in the hospital as doctors inserted a catheter into an arterial stent to dissolve the clot.

A retired air traffic controller, Drew said he has had lots of experience with heart issues, starting with a triple bypass 22 years ago. He has had several more recent operations to place stents in his legs.

Drew also had treatment for clots before, and immediately suspected another when he began feeling pain on March 30.

“It’s a very distinctive pain. I knew for a fact what it was,” he said.

Drew said he had a video conference with his cardiologist that day. He was told, though, that he could not be seen at either the hospital or an off-site clinic that performs catheterizations, because of executive orders issued by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Drew’s cardiologist could not be reached for comment.

Among the first executive orders issued in mid-March was one aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus by focusing medical resources almost entirely on COVID-19 patients. The executive orders carry the force of law, and this one was interpreted by many doctors and hospitals as a prohibition on treatments for all but the most urgent conditions, unless they are related to the epidemic.

The subsequent loss of revenue has driven many Michigan hospitals into a financial crisis that could lead to some closing their doors permanently. On May 3, the state appeared to respond to concerns about the impact on patients and medical facilities of delaying procedures. The state’s chief medical officer issued a clarification to the order restricting elective procedures, saying that it does in fact give providers broad discretion to determine what treatments are essential.

That statement did not satisfy at least one group of health care professionals and a patient, both represented by a legal team that includes the nonprofit Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. On May 12, they filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking to have the state’s treatment restrictions lifted. Michigan Capitol Confidential is published by the Mackinac Center.

Drew said he supports the lawsuit.

“That clot could have killed me or cost me a leg. How many people have died out there because they couldn’t get into a hospital?” he asked.