By DR. JEREMY SMITH
The COVID-19 pandemic is creating havoc and loss that many of us have never seen before in our lifetimes. As an anesthesiologist, I am proud of my fellow medical professionals and the work they are doing on the front lines of this crisis to care for the sick and save lives. Doctors, nurses, support staff and so many others are throwing themselves into their work, taking on extra duties and sacrificing time with their families. As most Americans are doing everything they can to stay away from this virus, our healthcare professionals are rushing towards it.
The grim reality is that while some in the healthcare profession are extremely busy, others are less so. As public health experts have recommended postponing non-emergency and elective procedures, the number of patients who are walking through the door of many clinics has decreased dramatically. Many hospitals, emergency rooms, and primary care clinics have also seen a steep decline in outpatient visits. In my practice, we’ve seen at least a 60 percent drop in surgical caseload since the pandemic began. This same decrease or worse is being seen throughout the healthcare sector.
I have no doubt we will see our way through this pandemic. There is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our lives might be forever altered because of it, but we will get through this. The question that I ask, and many others the medical field are asking, is what will our healthcare system look like when it’s over? Will the same medical care infrastructure be in place in the coming months? There is no doubt there will be lots of pent up demand for surgeries and procedures. We all know there are medical conditions that are going untreated right now that will need care in the future. It’s my hope and prayer that our healthcare providers will be able to meet this challenge. We must be ready to care for our patients as the virus subsides and more routine medical care resumes. But, it’s not a guarantee this system will survive the current environment. Clinics, hospitals and medical practices throughout the state are being forced to furlough or lay off staff. Many of these businesses are in real danger of bankruptcy. That is why it’s critical that Congress provide support for our healthcare providers. As citizens of Alabama, we need Sens. Richard Shelby and Doug Jones, along with our congressional representatives to make the availability of emergency funding for our healthcare providers a top priority.
Many people working in the medical field are facing the same struggle that every other American business owner or employee is facing. Our world has been turned upside down and many healthcare related businesses and medical practices are going through a very difficult time. Alabamians and all Americans are going to expect the same quality healthcare after this pandemic that they received before it began. This quality care will not be available if there is no one left to provide it. It’s up to leaders in Washington to work with healthcare providers to ensure that we’re ready to suit up and get back to work in providing that same high quality care when this is over.
Dr. Jeremy Smith is an Anesthesiologist from Birmingham Alabama