At this time, it is well known and documented how many people have suffered and died secondary to this COVID-19 virus. The national lockdown also puts our country at risk of injury for years going forward.
An unusual casualty to this virus includes physicians, which may sound rather strange, as one would think that doctors would be busier than ever during this period of time.
It is true that many hospitals are overflowing with infected and ill patients; however, there are many offices, clinics, hospitals and emergency rooms that sit empty. Staff has been laid off due to lack of patients with other noninfectious problems that are usually being taken care of each and every day under normal circumstances.
These unusual circumstances have necessitated disruption of elective surgeries, for example, which provide income for physicians, pays the nursing staff and reimburses surgery centers and hospitals so they may remain solvent.
The normal flow of patients in and out of these facilities with illnesses (non-coronavirus) and procedures and surgeries help keep the hospitals and clinic’s doors open each and every day. This is particularly evident in underserved areas both urban and rural.
Before this all happened, private practice medicine was diminishing for number of reasons, in part due to the aging doctor population, increased overhead, complexity of running a practice and now this unexpected shutdown.
Estimates are that 20% of doctors will discontinue practicing medicine. Some will retire earlier than expected. Some will go bankrupt. Some will close their doors and sell off assets. Some will sell out to large groups and/or to the hospital, where they will work as an employee.
Health care spending in the United States is expected to reach 25% of the GDP (gross domestic product) by the year 2025. It has been predicted that an economic downturn would only accelerate the situation and make physician availability and access problems worse; now it’s likely a reality secondary to an infectious problem that has created this economic issue.
While it is difficult and unclear what will happen and how health care will evolve in the future, it is likely to be very different than what we recognize and enjoy now.
It remains a big mystery, much like where did all that toilet paper go?
Denis W. Grillo, D.O., FOCOO, is an ear, nose and throat specialist in Crystal River. Call him at 352-795-0011 or visit CrystalCommunityENT.com.