I re-publish here a communication from the Medical Society of Northern Virginia Board of Directors on matters of importance to its member physicians. Their concerns are the public’s concerns.
First, on behalf of the board of directors, I would like to thank our first line responders; primary care physicians, hospital-based physicians and their ancillary staff, who are risking exposure to COVID-19 daily, while taking care of sick patients. In keeping with all the recent advisories and regulation waivers from CMS and the state, we offer the following recap and added recommendations to protect yourself and your practice.
We support Governor Northam’s recent executive order, issuing temporary restrictions to public gatherings to less than 10 people for non-essential business and adherence to social distancing recommendations. Medical services are excluded since we are essential services. However, the shortage of PPEs and COVID-19 testing pose serious impediments to mitigating the spread of this virus. As we indicated to the Governor last week, most independent practices are not equipped to handle specimen collections. Our offices are generally not set up for dealing with the aerosols associated with this highly communicable disease.
The fluid evolution of regulation will create inevitable gaps that will expose members to potential liabilities. Moreover, many non-essential specialties will suffer revenue loss. Therefore, we offer the following recommendations to Governor Northam and his cabinet:
- Clarify the executive order issued on March 25, 2020 suspending all inpatient and outpatient surgical procedures. Physicians know when and how to make decisions to deliver the best care and outcome to their patients. Imposing a blanket sanction as a Class 1 misdemeanor is excessive and will only stoke fear when exercising professional discretion.
- Create a distribution pipeline for PPEs for independent physicians in our community. We cannot risk a shortage of physicians, nurses and ancillary providers due to lack of protection.
- Issue executive order directing private insurance carriers to pay for all telemedicine visits at the same at same rate as in-person visits, as written into section § 38.2-3418.16, after the passage of SB675 in 2010. Insurance companies should not be allowed to deny or reduce coverage for telemedicine visits. Furthermore, reimbursements should be disbursed within five business days of claim submission. This is not a time for insurance companies hold-back payments to increase their profits.
- In addition to the SBA loans Virginia was able to secure for economic injury, create an economic relief fund for community physicians to disburse grants to cover the profound loss of revenue during the period the State of Emergency is in effect. This will enable small practices to get back into the business of delivering medical care to their patients and bring their staff back to work as the pandemic wanes.
- Invoke and extend the “Good Samaritan” law, written on section § 8.01-225 to frontline providers for the entire period the State of Emergency is in effect. This line of defense will offer protection against liability during this crisis.
We hope our recommendations are heard.
Soheila Rostami, MD, MSNVA President
MSNVA Board of Directors