On Life Support

Pandemic shutdown threatens business of private medical providers

Posted 4/21/20

While the COVID-19 pandemic makes its mark across the state of Texas, experts are vastly concerned with the impact it is having on private medical establishments and what the future holds for the practices.

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On Life Support

Pandemic shutdown threatens business of private medical providers

Posted

While the COVID-19 pandemic makes its mark across the state of Texas, experts are vastly concerned with the impact it is having on private medical establishments and what the future holds for the practices.

“What we are seeing is that private physicians around the state are really struggling in a lot of different ways,” said Steve Levine, Vice President of Communications for the Texas Medical Association. “Those physicians that perform procedures and surgeries that have not been deemed life-saving, but are still necessary for one’s health and well-being, have all been put off. Those physicians are seeing a tremendous decline in the number of patients they can see.”

Physicians and private medical practicers find themselves unable to see their patients apart from cases deemed “emergencies”.

Most private medical practices in Madison County are closed with the exception of emergencies and did not answer their office phones Monday.

“Right now, the Texas Dental Association is in contact with the Governor’s office trying to clarify their statement,” said Dr. Judd Langley of Langley Dental, PLLC in Madisonville. “One way you can read it, we could be back next week. Another way, it would be May 8.

“Our medical boards and associations were just not ready for something like this. It is very frustrating and I miss my staff and my patients, we need to get back to normal.”

Langley Dental has operated in Madisonville since 2018.

The TMA held a town hall meeting Monday with more than 1,600 physicians from across the state via telephone and asked them all to detail how much their practices have decreased in revenue since the start of the pandemic. The majority of doctors on the call offered disheartening statistics.

Of the doctors present at the town hall, 36% stated their practices have fallen off 50-75% since the start of isolation orders; 24% noticed their practices fall off 75-100% while 23% experienced a 25-50% decrease. Up to a quarter of attendees claimed no decrease in revenue while 7% either did not notice any drop off or were unsure.

“This is not a scientific survey, but given the size and number of people that participated, I think this indicates a significant national crisis for physicians of all sorts,” said Levine.

Primary physicians have also had to lay people off in order to keep their doors open. In a March 28 story, the Texas Tribune spoke to Austin family physician, Erica Swegler, about the worries she is experiencing regarding her practice.

“If I’m ill and have to leave the practice for up to two weeks, or God forbid I’m hospitalized where it may be a three to six-week period of time, I’m bankrupt,” said Swegler.

Primary care doctors and specialists are warning that, as financial constraints lead them to consider laying off staff or even go out of business, a greater number of patients might end up in Texas hospitals at a time when those facilities don’t have the capacity to handle them.

Nurse practitioners in doctors’ offices or outpatient clinics are already losing jobs or being furloughed according to Christy Blanco, president of the Texas Nurse Practitioners professional association.

“If you drive around the town, you will see people have stayed pretty locked down,” said Langley. “That is what it takes. Even when we got back to work, we need to practice more safety and focus on what we are doing. But we will get through it.”

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