As the restrictions put in place by the federal and state government to prevent the spread of the coronavirus morph from weeks to months, physicians said on a conference call with reporters on Tuesday that the real threat to Americans is the lack of access to health care.
Screen grab/A Doctor A Day website
It’s fear, not the virus, that is leading to dangerous and deadly health outcomes, from children falling behind on routine vaccines to people with serious conditions like heart disease and depression staying at home instead of seeking help.
“I just feel that’s there’s a very big disconnect between what the average American thinks is going on and what’s actually going on,” Dr. Simone Gold, an emergency room physician, said on the call.
Gold told reporters about a middle-aged woman she met in the emergency room who had fallen while attempting to color her own hair because she couldn’t go to a salon.
The woman had a broken hip and shoulder and required surgery.
Dr. Mark McDonald, a psychiatrist who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry, said on the call that for the first time in his ten years of praticing, he lost a patient. The woman, who suffered from depression and had struggled with drug addiction, died at home alone of an opioid overdose.
“I am certain that the cause of her death was due to a withdrawal of support in the community, and the withdrawal of her ability to be in school, her inability to [deal with] the added stress,” McDonald said.
MEDIA SPREADS FEAR
And fear of dying from the virus is being fomented by the media, the physicians said.
“All you have to do is watch the six o’clock news here in L.A. to know why they are avoiding the health care system,” Dr. Steven Giannotta, the chairman of neurosurgery at the University of Southern Californian, said on the call. “Because we’ve allowed the media … to stigmatize COVID positivity.” He went on to say:
They give two statistics every time — they open their newscast with the number of people who have tested positive for COVID and immediately adjacent to that, the number of people who have died with COVID making, unfortunately, in the viewer’s mind, a nexus between COVID positivity and death.
It’s stigmatized our health care system and people are afraid to access the health care system for fear of becoming COVID positive, as if that is the worst possible outcome.
But, in fact, it is far more dangerous to stay at home if you have a serious health condition that needs regular treatment, Giannotta said.
Dr. Robert Hamilton, a pediatrician in California, said on the call that the lockdown is also hurting young people who are missing out on social time with friends and classroom structure as schools continue to be shuttered.
Hamilton said that the Los Angeles Times reported that online learning is not replacing either experiences and that 15,000 students have disappeared as it related to being in touch with teachers online and some 40,000 students have failed to check in daily.
Hamilton warned about “the emotional and social toll that this is taking on children being in lockdown for this period of time.”
“Issues of depression, suicide, stress, that sense of futility, despair, fear, and paranoia really, are taking hold in our young people,” Hamilton said.
Moreover, the doctors agree that while the initial lockdown for a couple weeks or so to make sure that hospitals and the health care infrastructure was prepared for a surge of the coronavirus was wise, the ongoing restrictions are not only not helping stop the spread of the disease but are delaying the inevitable course of this and many other viruses.
“The reality of herd immunity is obviously we don’t know until we know,” Dr. Jeffrey Barke, co-founder of the Person Care Physicians in Newport Beach, California, said. “But we have examples of past respiratory viral infections where we’ve been able to reach a level of herd immunity to protect the most vulnerable.”
“For every child and for every young adult that is locked indoors and is not allowed to be exposed to the virus when they overwhelming do well, especially if you are under the age of 40 or even 50, that’s one person less to achieve that level of herd immunity,” Barke said. He continued:
Even if we don’t get up to the recommended 60, 70 or 80 percent of immunity within the population – even it we only reach 30 or 40 percent – that’s 30 or 40 percent of Americans that are exposed, that are immune and that are no longer able to spread the virus and are able, in some regard, to protect the most vulnerable.
So the reality is that we are way past the time where being locked down makes any scientific or medical sense. We are taking the healthiest folks – the youngest, the strongest, our children – and we are in effect protecting the healthiest herd from being exposed and allowing them to get herd immunity.
So this idea that somehow we have to wait for a vaccination or a cure to this virus in order to open up schools just makes no scientific sense whatever.
“in my view, this is a pandemic of hysteria and emotional overload,” McDonald said. “Beyond a medical pandemic.”
“And the downstream consequences medically are very, very severe,” McDonald said.
EDUCATE PUBLIC AND LEADERS
The conference call, which was hosted by the Tea Party Patriots Action, was also held to announce the launch of a website to educate the public and also to announce that more than 500 doctors have signed a letter delivered to President Donald Trump to share their concerns.
“There are more than one miliion licensed physicians in this country,” the website states. “Do you really believe there is only one opinion? Thousands of physicians have something to tell you.”
“America needs a second opinion,” the website states.
The A Doctor A Day website will feature daily stories from doctors across the country.
The letter to Trump, after thanking the president for his leadership during the health crisis, was crafted to “express our alarm over the exponentially growing negative health consequences of the national shutdown.”
The letter also said, in part:
We are alarmed at what appears to be the lack of consideration for the future health of our patients. The downstream health effects of deteriorating a level are being massively under-estimated and under-reported. This is an order of magnitude error.
It is impossible to overstate the short, medium, and long-term harm to people’s health with a continued shutdown. Losing a job is one of life’s most stressful events, and the effect on a person’s health is not lessened because it also has happened to 30 million other people. Keeping schools and universities closed is incalculably detrimental for children, teenagers, and young adults for decades to come.
The millions of casualties of a continued shutdown will be hiding in plain sight, but they will be called alcoholism, homelessness, suicide, heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure. In youths it will be called financial instability, unemployment, despair, drug addiction, unplanned pregnancies, poverty, and abuse.
Because the harm is diffuse, there are those who hold that it does not exist. We, the undersigned, know otherwise.
HURTING FRONTLINE WORKERS
And the lockdown has also hurt many workers, including staff that work for physicians, including nurses and technicians, who are so often now regularly celebrated for being on the “frontlines” of fighting the virus.
Gold said when people thank her for her work and express worry that she and other in the health care sector are “overwhelmed” she responds otherwise.
“I cannot say strongly enough that the health care system not only is not overwhelmed, it is underwhelmed,” Gold said. “I can give you scores of nurses who have been laid off and scores of technicians that have been laid off.”
“Emergency physicians have cut their hours by 35 percent,” Gold said.
She said her hospital laid off 50 percent of its technicians.
“I’ve never seen anything like this in my career,” Gold said.
Moreover, the doctors said that reopening the country is not as difficult as some would say if “commonsense” protocols are followed. And that does not include mandatory mask-wearing or social distancing.
“This concept of social distancing, I think, has sort of gotten away from us,” Dr. Scott Barbour, an orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta, said on the call. “There’s no scientific data to back up social distancing.”
And, Barbour said, his practice, which employs about 130 people, has mostly remained in operation over the course of the shutdown, with the exception of treating certain high-risk patients.
“I think what this shows is that we can reopen the country with commonsense precautions, like washing hands, avoiding shaking hands and cleaning surfaces like doorknobs and countertops that are likely to be contaminated,” Barbour said.
The physicians told a reporter who suggested on the call that this coalition is political because it partnered with the Tea Party for the call said they chose Jenny Beth Martin’s organization because they fight for health care freedom and the importance of the patient/doctor relationship.
“We are basically sick and tired of the politicization of our health care field,” Barke said. “We just want to take care of patients.”
“Thousands and thousands of doctors across this country that want nothing more than to get back to work to care of their patients and provide the best health care that they possible can,” Barker said. “We want to take politics out of health care and get back to the art of taking care of patients once again.”
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