Doctors fume at government response to coronavirus pandemic – STAT – By Meghana Keshavan @megkesh – April 9, 2020
STAT interviewed more than a dozen physicians and scientists around the country, and one after another, they leveled strikingly similar critiques at both the federal and local levels:
Eric Topol, a cardiologist and director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute in San Diego, said, “The American public doesn’t know that a large portion of this catastrophe was preventable, if not for the sinful incompetence of our leaders.”
Most physicians would agree to speak to STAT only on the condition of anonymity, citing fears that they’d face retaliation from their health systems — who are chastising, or even firing, desperately needed health workers for speaking out.
This is the outcome of the corporate takeover of our medical system. Physicians ceded control of health care, and it’s time to take it back.
Doctors can no longer act independently but are tightly controlled by their overlords. Of the exorbitant fees we are charged for medical care, only a small portion goes to the doctors and nurses and other medical professionals treating us.
Instead, healthcare dollars are routed through countless layers of expensive non-medical management trying to squeeze more profit from the hard and hazardous work of their doctor employees to feed the greed of high-level corporate officers.
It’s almost like a multi-level marketing pyramid scheme, with doctors and patients the suckers.
“Many of us feel we’ve been put at risk by the ineptitude of leadership across the board,” said one critical care physician in Miami. “We saw a pandemic developing, but still couldn’t get our hands around it.”
Here in Los Angeles, a primary care doctor put it this way: “I alternate between anxiety attacks and rage over this … everything is shrouded in secrecy,” she said. “It’s an American shame.”
“What really stunned me, and disturbed me: Even though we had been warned by experts and were well-positioned to act, nobody paid attention,” an emergency physician in New York City, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said. “We seem to have been caught completely with our pants down in the U.S.”
The first Covid-19 case was discovered stateside on Jan. 21 — the same day as South Korea. The prudent move, several doctors pointed out, would have been to immediately fast-track a rapid, reliable, scalable diagnostic test.
But instead of using a ready-made test developed by the World Health Organization, the CDC opted to create its own.
The CDC test malfunctioned, leading to a series of delays. Nearly three months later, it’s still a fraught and time-consuming process to get a coronavirus test in most parts of the country.
“These tests are not that complicated, and aren’t that expensive,” the New York physician said. “It’s staggering that we failed so profoundly here.”
In the months before testing began to pick up steam, the disease spread unchecked in U.S. hospitals. Patients with upper respiratory symptoms or pneumonia were admitted to the hospital — “and they were just giving massive viral loads to nurses, doctors, respiratory therapists, paramedics,” Topol said.
Hospitals across the country have been rapidly running out of personal protective equipment — and many still aren’t getting supplies fast enough from state and federal governments.
The lack of preparation “has crippled us clinically,” the New York emergency physician said. “So many common sense things would have changed the course of this,” he said. “It’s very baffling. And infuriating.”
“There’s an unwillingness for the current administration to cede leadership to a competent individual,” Topol said
While the pandemic response has largely been relegated to local and state legislators, many interviewed complained about the lack of action on that level.
“Either [politicians] don’t believe science, or they’re listening to lobbyists who are more interested in financial blowback than anything else,” Schapiro said. “I don’t know why they dropped the ball — except they were playing politics because the economy was at risk.”
Although hospital leadership publicly adheres to CDC directives, emergency and critical care physicians said they look elsewhere for information on treating Covid-19.
“I think there’s a lot of mistrust with CDC guidelines, because they seem to be pretty reactionary,” Kathrotia said.
After the fiasco of the CDC opioid guideline, I learned this agency no longer based on scientific research. It’s far too easily swayed by politics and outside interests, like the anti-opioid lobby.
Among the physicians, there’s a growing fear that they’ll face repercussions if they speak out.
Ming Lin, a doctor in Washington state, was fired after publicly speaking about supply shortages at his hospital.
Other workers have been told they’ll lose their jobs if they don’t treat coronavirus patients. So doctors are staying anonymous.
But when the pandemic has abated, and life has attained some level of normalcy, there needs to be a “reckoning” at the end of all of this, in which there’s an inquiry into what went wrong, several of the physicians said.
“My fear is that this will all get whitewashed — where we’ll look back and say that everyone rallied and was heroic,” the New York City physician said.
“Voices of reason and science were shouting the truth — but were allowed to be ignored, and thousands died because of it. This is a crucial lesson for history.”
Author: Meghana Keshavan, Biotech Correspondent – Meghana covers biotech from Los Angeles and contributes to The Readout newsletter