A Source of Doctors, Nurses for COVID-19 Response

by James Sherlock

This morning, March 15, I sent an email to Dr. Dan Carey, Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, to the Medical Society of Virginia and to the Medical Society of Northern Virginia. I offered a concept for significantly and quickly increasing the number of medical personnel available for COVID-19 response in Virginia and perhaps across the nation. The gist of that email was as follows:

There are a lot of medical specialties that will see a decrease in patient visits while the emergency is in effect. Perhaps you can figure (or have figured) out a way to organize that situation into an informal reserve force for the hospitals and primary care providers. I have an idea on how to do that. You may have better ones.

My idea is to organize a voluntary signup program for doctors, nurses and technicians built around doctors’ practices that will have a much lower influx of patients during this period. You know the specialties that fit that description better than I. Examples may include ophthalmologists and dermatologists. One way to do that is for those specialty offices to organize their reduced patient loads into say four days a week rather than five, or maybe even more if their practices are more heavily impacted by near-term cancellations. They could then sign up for that day or days as available for temporary call-up by local hospitals, primary care practices, nursing homes and others for emergency assistance.

It would be useful but not mandatory if the teams from the practices could be put in service together because they have established working relationships. The Department of Health and the local health departments can maintain the lists.

Malpractice insurance may need to be expanded to cover assistance in this emergency. The Medical Society of Virginia or perhaps the AMA can arrange that for all.

They should certainly be paid for that work. I hope they will be paid by insurers including government insurers for different procedure codes than in their regular practices. The uninsured will need to be covered. I know a lot of the COVID-19 insurance coordination is already underway nationally. This concept could be included.

I received almost immediate response on this Sunday morning from the Medical Society of Virginia Executive Director and its President, Dr. Clifford Deal. Dr. Deal had been thinking of ways to muster doctors for this crisis. The idea of part-week closing of practices (ex-primary care) that deal with other than emergency cases appeals to him.

Dr. Deal indicated that he will arrange a teleconference with the Governor’s office, with Dr. Carey, the Department of Health and some of his leading practitioners early this week.

Mine is but one input. That group will facilitate the best ideas they can devise.

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2 responses to “A Source of Doctors, Nurses for COVID-19 Response”

  1. djrippert Avatar

    This seems like a really good idea. Triage for doctors and nurses. No more nose jobs for a while so the plastic surgery folks can help with something more important?

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I agree. We have a local “free” clinic as well as mobile doctor/dentist vans to the schools. Also, we have quite a few young folks in nursing and other paramedical enrolled in Community College..

    All could be marshalled if push comes to shove –

    and you know what? If Virginia gave a tax or tuition credit for volunteers , I bet there would be a stampede or sorts.

    Finally, there are quite a few retired folks out there – that would volunteer even if there was some risk.

    A lot of people would “step up” if someone just asked and there was a plan.

    This is the part of America that does “work” and has for a long time.

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