Overall, the federal, state and county governments handled the Coronavirus pandemic as well as could realistically be expected. However, there were areas that should have been handled better. Around April 1, the federal, state, and county-issued mandatory guidelines for individuals, businesses, hospitals, and doctor practices. Those guidelines required hospitals and doctors to postpone all deferable medical procedures. The intent was good to limit coronavirus exposure for patients and medical staff and to reserve hospital beds and staff capacity to treat peak numbers of Covid-19 patients. It did not work well for the patients whose procedures were postponed or for hospitals and doctors who lost that source of revenue. I was one of those patients.
On March 10 at a routine check-up with my cardiologist, my EKG indicated I had Atrial Fibrillation (A-fib). My cardiologist started me on a special blood thinner to prevent blood clots which is a side effect of A-fib. Those clots can potentially lodge in blood vessels in the lungs causing serious respiration impairment or in the brain causing severe temporary or permanent physical or mental impairment. I was scheduled for a cardioversion (shock treatment) on April 14. That was postponed until June 23 because it was deemed to be a deferable procedure. Fortunately, the cardioversion worked and corrected my A-fib, and all is well.
Because my health and wellbeing was at risk during the postponement, I feel I should have had the option to risk coronavirus and have the procedure as scheduled or postpone it and risk blood clots, not the government. When I did get the cardioversion on June 23, the hospital’s coronavirus procedures to protect me and medical staff were very adequate including testing me for the virus before admission. The procedure was outpatient and did not require a hospital bed. Typically, deferrable procedures are outpatient procedures and do not require a hospital bed. Therefore, postponing those procedures had no bearing on the hospital’s bed reserve for peak Covid-19 patients. The federal, state and county mandated rule should have been more flexible to allow the hospital, doctor, and patient to make the decision based on the situation.
Hospitals receive a large portion of their revenue from outpatient services and doctors who specialize in these procedures receive a large portion of their revenue from those sources. Nationwide hospitals lost many $ Billion of revenue and those doctors probably lost half their revenue because of the mandatory guidelines.
Unfortunately, some Governors and City Mayors exaggerated their Covid-19 needs for hospital beds, ventilators, and masks. I grew tired of seeing the governor of New York on national TV whining and criticizing the federal officials for not giving him everything he asked for. The mayor of New York City demanded and got a Navy hospital ship stationed there. It stayed for several weeks and left without ever admitting or treating a patient.
National TV hyped the shortage of ventilators and masks daily. The reality is that I never heard of any documented case where a hospital needed ventilators and masks for Covid-19 patients but did not have them. That kind of exaggeration by governors, mayors, media, or hospital administrators, is irresponsible and is just buck-passing for their own incompetence.
During a crisis, it is the responsibility of federal, state, county, and city governments to control the distribution of critical equipment and supplies to ensure those sites that need it to receive it. Otherwise, there would be massive hoarding by the managers of those sites, and those needing it would not receive it.
To its credit, all branches of government-issued the mandatory goals but left it to the managers of each business, hospital, or doctor practice to decide how best to comply based on their existing facilities and staff which are very different. For example, I have a friend who manages a local industrial plant with about 50 workers that were deemed essential and remained open. To limit his workers’ exposure, he divided them into small work teams as possible and kept the teams segregated with different workspaces and schedules. If one worker were exposed, it would not expose all 49 others. The Wall Street Journal reported a hospital survey that indicated they all complied, but each did it differently depending on its existing facilities and staffing.
Bio: Ralph Coker is a retired petroleum refinery plant manager. He writes on business, economic, military, and political topics.