COVID-19; I’m so tired of typing that.  Tired of talking about it and seeing it on the news.  Tired of that big red spiked image on the news every night, flashed between local weather, dog adoption stories and the latest guidelines from somebody who doesn’t live near me.  I’m weary of talking points and experts and counter-experts. I and so many others are exhausted by conspiracy theories and politicization of medicine and the ‘medicalization’ of politics.  We’re tired of one group distrusting the other and that group insulting the first.

Alas, COVID-19 (oh how it pains me to type those letters!) has also changed the medical landscape.  People are avoiding medical care and we’re in uncharted territory.

The thing is, people (we physicians used to call them patients) are afraid to go to the hospital or doctor’s office. The medical profession, the political class and the news media have effectively left them terrified.

People sometimes seek care for work related injuries or illnesses, but then, our unemployment rates are truly epic.  If you aren’t working, you aren’t getting hurt on the job or driving to and from said job.

Furthermore, people who don’t have money, or suddenly don’t have employer-subsidized health insurance, don’t go to the hospital or doctor’s office unless absolutely necessary.  Sometimes, we’re finding, not even then in these days of ‘the Rona’ as very sick people get sicker and sicker at home with things like heart attack, stroke and even (of course) COVID-19. (Aggh! It burns us!)

In the midst of this, my colleagues across the country who have largely demanded an endless lock-down of society “to save lives and flatten the curve” are suddenly flabbergasted.  The source of their bumfuzzlement?  All across America (and probably the world) physicians are losing their jobs.

Now, physicians endure a lot of education and training in the earnest belief that their jobs, our jobs, are bullet-proof.  “There will always be people who are sick or injured.” Our parents told us this, our educators assured us of the fact and we had no reason to doubt their collective wisdom.  Despite what we were told, doctors are losing money and looking for any way possible to make cash.  Some have lost long-standing job contracts on short notice.  This is especially troubling since many physicians have a lot (and I mean a LOT) of debt, including an average of $200,000 in student loans among recent grads.

Otherwise intelligent physicians, desperate to keep the citizenry safely ensconced at home, eating chips and watching Netflix while waiting on a vaccine, seem to struggle to make the connection between the patients they no longer see and the income they no longer have.

It’s not rocket surgery people.  It’s cash flow.  Patients get sick and see us and give us money.  When we don’t see them or they decide they are safer at home, then we don’t get their money.  “But the corporations.” Sure, sometimes they give us a hard time. But even they have to make money in order to, you know, pay us.

So to my medical people, I get it.  COVID-19 (Gollum, Gollum) is a nasty bit of business. I understand the imperative to corral it.  But while we’re busily demeaning those who want, who need to get back to work; while we’re calling them stupid and unscientific, while we’re asking “is the economy is worth the loss of life?” then let’s just accept the fact that the lock-down promises to impoverish us as well.

It’s leadership really. We shouldn’t ask someone to do something we aren’t willing to do as well.  Goose, gander, pot, kettle and all that.

But hey, maybe it’s time for a new skill-set after all, right!

Edwin

 

 

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