Today was a wake-up call for me. I have been monitoring relevant public health data. As new cases skyrocket and the death toll climbs, it seems as though our preemptive and cursory attempts at quarantine failed to curb the exponential growth of new COVID-19 cases in California and globally.
Just a day ago, business owners in Orange.County were encouraged to carry on while invoking measures to screen for and wall off possible cases of Coronavirus. Despite our best efforts, we must recognize that the massive wave of disease has yet to plague our community. We have not dented the proverbial curve these efforts were designed to flatten.
Moments ago, ASPS President Dr. Jeffers sent the following message to ASPS members:
“In accordance with the new CMS recommendation that all elective surgeries, non-essential medical, surgical and dental procedures be delayed during the COVID-19 outbreak, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons recommends that all plastic surgeons cease providing any elective or non-essential services.
We now live and practice in a critically different medical reality—a rapidly evolving viral pandemic that is projected to, if unchecked, kill many Americans and many more around the world. Public health experts agree that we must do two things on an urgent basis:
First, we must reduce the risk of the SARS-CoV-2 virus transmission from human to human as well as the rate of new case development. Only in that way can we flatten the curve and not overwhelm our very limited supply of hospital beds, ICU beds, ventilators and extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machines. We have already hit that stage in a few hard-hit metropolitan areas.
Second, we must as a nation conserve needed disposable medical supplies and focus them to the hospitals where they are most needed.
This disease is now in every state and the number of new cases is currently doubling every one to two days. Already, a handful of our physician colleagues in other specialties have died from COVID-19. It is essential that we as physicians and as responsible human beings do what we can and must to reduce viral transmission and enhance our nation’s ability to care for those desperately ill from the disease. Public health experts unanimously agree that our window to modify the spread of disease is a narrow one that will soon close.
Accordingly, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons strongly recommends that all of our members provide only urgent or emergent care. This includes both office-based surgical procedures and care as well as those performed in an ambulatory surgery center or hospital-based setting. The Society recognizes that “urgency” is determined by physician judgment and must always take into account the individual patient’s medical and social circumstances. Each of us has a societal responsibility to not function as a vector of a potentially fatal disease—and one for which a widely available treatment or vaccine does not currently exist.
All other factors—business, finance, inconvenience, etc.—are remotely secondary. This is an existential crisis. We as physicians must respond to it and support our colleagues and our communities. Likewise, we as physicians have a social responsibility to remain healthy in the event that our services are needed for patients.”
Dr. Jeffers said it best. And I have a sacrosanct responsibility to protect you. While my office remains a safe haven in the sense that there is minimal foot traffic and we sanitize everything, I need to preserve my supplies, and ensure my own health should I be called to the front lines to help those in need of non-elective care.
For those of you who have had surgery recently, I will meet you individually to provide early postoperative care. I am available to you all 24/7 for emergent and urgent care. I will let you know when the time is right to resume elective patient care. Sadly, that time may come weeks to months from now.
I am also available by Skype, FaceTime, and telephone for consults, followups, and et cetera. Call (949) 432-4730 anytime. For emergencies or postoperative care, I’ll meet you in the office.