This will let me in for some criticism, so too bad. I am angry, very damn angry over our response to the Corona/Wuhan/Covid-19 virus.
On 9/11/01, when I saw that the second tower had been hit, my first thought upon realizing this was an attack, was that the power and reach of the federal government would be increased. Sadly, I was more right than I could have imagined. My support of Authentic Medicine is first and foremost based on my belief in, and respect for the individual. To the extent that the CDC, health departments, and focused, sober, non-hysterical government action support individual health and freedom of action, I’m on board. But when the government, self-interested politicians, virtue-signaling companies, and the media start to ping off each other to amplify panic, I am out. Nearly every reader in their training and career has been scared out of their mind during a real-time clinical situation, and I am no different. Less from natural talent and more from training, I have learned to keep it together, lower the tone of my voice, and exhibit calm to staff and patients, especially when my fear level shoots up. I say with no hesitation that it is one of the primary jobs of a physician to maintain calm and composure, particularly in more concerning circumstances. It is my opinion that the public members of our profession via a hyperventilating media have done a great disservice to our society by contributing to a sense of panic. Constantly bombarding all airwaves and internet sources with needless worry has caused more damage already, I suspect, then the virus itself will cause. Moreover, I predict though I know not how, that this “crisis” will further infuse government into the practice of medicine and further constrain our abilities to use our best judgment in the service of our patients. Mandatory yearly testing, preemptive quarantines, a new CME industry, new arbitrary core measures…one can only guess.
I have seen pediatricians on TV actually advising parents to instill fear into young children over this, and I’ve seen FPs and ER docs dutifully nodding along when the anchor (pick the network) adds somberly, yet not soberly, that normal daily activities and gatherings be curtailed or banned. About now, some esteemed readers will be dismissing me or questioning my professionalism: to them I say, yes, this virus should be taken seriously, but without panic. Yes, the elderly are at greater risk and should exercise more caution (or have it exercised by their family). But closing schools indefinitely, ending major sporting events, and hoarding toilet paper are the sort of seemingly temporary reaction that can cause long-term harm. Shall we do this every year, or for every widespread virus that does not show far-ranging and immediate mortality? What does this do to the psyche of individuals? How many more will be harmed by not being able to work, or being unable to buy the daily staples of life because the frightened neighbors have already cleaned out the stores? What other ailments will be unleashed on the at-risk due to pervading, 24/7 anxiety unrefuted by our profession?
Think I’m overplaying this? I work for a company that staffs rural hospitals, some critical access, which provide the only care for their areas. Generally, our facilities are hard to staff, and we don’t have a very deep bench. If I’m asymptomatic but required to be Covid-19 tested, what do they do with me if I’m positive? Do we tell the next doc to come in and work 48, or 72 hours until she is infected (made more likely by physical exhaustion)? What then? The chest pains, respiratory distress cases, occasional trauma, and yes, nursing home patients will keep coming in. Nervous moms with non-flu, non-Corona, virus spewing toddlers will still come in. Do we shut the hospitals down for lack of staff? What happens to the other patients then? “Ship them up the road” will only add to the greater burdens of regional medical centers in more populous areas. I don’t want to be an unethical jerk, and if I do develop a fever and dry cough, I certainly don’t want to expose an at-risk patient, but virtue signaling and calling in infected won’t keep our doors open. This isn’t self-importance, this is a very real risk.
I’m no virologist and could be wrong, and if so, feel free to hurl your barbs later on, but I think that once the widespread infection rate is documented, the mortality rate will drop. The deaths so far and those that are coming are each and everyone sad and matter, but that does not justify the mass, reflexive panic we are seeing. I think physicians should everywhere be advising everyone to calm down and live their lives, and I think we are failing badly in that respect.
Seventy-five years ago, the Marines were mopping up on Iwo Jima, and we were on the verge of the greatest scientific, economic, and living standard expansion in history. Today this nation looks more like a neurotic person on a chair, shrieking at a mouse. In a society where medicine developed to aid and improve the individual, this is shameful. We should be better.