An Open Letter to America's Physicians:
I See you; I Hear You.
To all the physicians in America, I am one too and I need you to know:
I see you.
I hear you.
To the Wachusett Emergency Physicians Group in Massachusetts who just days ago, have lost your contract to UMass without cause, I see you; I hear you.
For the past 35 years, Wachusett Emergency Physicians has had the privilege of caring for the greater Leominster/Fitchburg community. During that time, we provided care to over one million patients. Sadly, UMass Memorial Health Alliance - Clinton Hospital has decided, without cause, to terminate our contract to work in the Emergency Department.
To the medical staff at Kansas City's Children Mercy who have been bared from wearing a mask, I see you; I hear you.
You are not allowed to wear a mask continuously throughout your shift in order to protect yourself.
To the physicians in Seattle who were reminded via Memo on March 18th, 2020 by your administrators about self-quarantine practices, I see you; I hear you.
Please remember that self-quarantine is not an option for our providers. Quarantining must be authorized based on symptoms and testing for COVID-19 and should be cleared with your operations and JOC leaders. Unauthorized self-quarantining under these circumstances is unprofessional and a disservice to your community and colleagues. It is also unauthorized time away from practice in violation of your employment agreement and may result in termination of your employment.
To the physicians who are salaried, tirelessly working over-time, while simultaneously seeing a large reduction in your paycheck adding nothing but insult to injury, I see you; I hear you.
Our entire physician staff was told that we would be getting a 30% decrease in our pay mainly due to the hospitals current inability to generate funds from high paying services like outpatient surgeries. When I asked if the administrators would be taking a similar pay cut my question was ignored and later received an email from human resources with the hospital's policy on salary disclosure. I suppose that was my answer. I wonder if I could also opt-in on this plan and without cause also reduce by 30% the monthly payments of my student loans, childcare costs and home mortgage. Society thinks we are all rich living extravagant life styles but that is no life I nor my 2002 Honda Civic have ever known.
To the private practice physicians like ophthalmologists, neurologists, endocrinologists, etc., who will likely be forced to close your practice indefinitely because of an inability to see patients amidst this COVID crisis, thus an inability to financially afford to keep your practice open, I see you; I hear you.
In order to keep our society safe, I am not seeing patient's in the office. I have staff and other overhead costs that I will no longer afford. My practice can weather this if for a month or maybe two more, but beyond that, we won't survive and my practice will be forced out of business. I have heard about bail outs for large hospital systems but what about for small medical practice owners like myself? Am I entitled to a bail-out?
To those working at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York while your leaders, are safely secured in their million dollar homes, I see you; I hear you.
Do you know that from the time I wake up from the time I go to bed I am totally engaged? Do you know that I get over 400 emails that I reply to. That on a good day it’s every 90 seconds and that on a bad day it’s almost every minute. That I have teleconferencing with Zoom like constantly. When they don’t have a Zoom, I’m on the phone with them. I mean, please - Dr Kenneth Davis, CEO of Mount Sinai Hospital.
To the physicians in Seattle whose healthcare administrators are demanding that you be reassigned to high-need areas while still being required to cover your own clinic demands, I see you; I hear you.
I am not sure what I am supposed to do. I am being told I must help relieve the efforts of colleagues in high-acuity COVID locations yet, simultaneously told that I will be required to maintain constant oversight of my practice and patients. Its as if they literally expect us to be in two places at once. Do they realize we are not machines? Last time I checked I was only human.
To the physicians who are currently working days upon days (often in a row), without breaks, without rest, I see you; I hear you.
I am killing my body for the sake of humanity. I purposefully don't drink fluids while on shift so I won't have to stop and use the restroom. I don't stop to eat because that would require me to go to the cafeteria where I fear I would further the spread of COVID secondary to our nonexistent PPE supply. On my eleventh straight day of working, I decided to store snacks behind my work station. However, that was short lived as it was thrown in the garbage because food is not permitted in this location. But I guess COVID is... <insert awkward shoulder shrug here>.
To the physicians who are making life and death decisions about patient care, I see you; I hear you.
I am begging for the hospital administration team to put together a policy of procedure to help guide our utilization of ventilation resources for the critically acute COVID patients. After drafting a lengthy email detailing the importance of this I received an email response consisting of four words: It is your call. In my mind I am screaming, 'What does that even mean?'
To the physicians who are purposefully avoiding your family so not to risk exposing them to the COVID virus, I see you; I hear you.
My commute currently consists of walking two blocks, twice a day. It's exactly a tenth of a mile from the hospital I work to the hotel where I am currently staying. I haven't seen my wife or children in nine days because I am a walking COVID vector and am afraid to bring it home. My hotel room is a mess because I refuse to ask hotel staff to clean it for fear of exposing them to this very unwanted guest accompanying me everywhere I go. The juxtaposition of being both a walking detriment and healing body to society. #GETmePPE.
To the physicians who are so desperately trying to be seen and heard by society, I see you; I hear you.
I am nothing more than a walking medical textbook used only for my education and trusted work ethic, seen as nothing more than an insignificant human life. I am reminded daily by hospital administration that I am both dispensable and replaceable. If I walk away from this nightmare I will be accused of patient abandonment. If I don't walk away however, I am risking my health, my life. Does no one care? Where are those loud Kardashian's when you need them. Can you get them to speak on our behalf? Don't they have a lot of social media followers? Hello, is this mic on?
To every physician all over America, I will continue to be a voice if you are one who is not allowed to have one.
I see you.
I hear you.
This article is a follow up to: COVID Pandemic Exposes the Ugly Truths of America's Healthcare System also written by Dr Megan Babb. If you haven't already read, click on the article title now.
If you are a physician or healthcare worker who would like their story told, please send your story to [email protected] (Please note this account is only viewed by Dr Megan Babb).
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About the author
I am a mother to four, a wife to one, and a physician to many. I like to reach others through words of advocation to give a voice to those in need. Welcome to my village where all are welcome.