Doctors Worry Another COVID-19 Shutdown Could Further Delay Elective Surgeries

Oct 13, 2020

Doctors have had to juggle more with less during the pandemic.

Many small medical practices have had layoffs or staff who quit due to the stress and fear of the virus. The doctors’ offices are also under pressure to cope with chronic shortages of masks and other personal protective equipment.

Now with the virus on the upswing, doctors are worried they’ll again be behind on elective surgeries that were canceled to free up staff and facilities for treatment of the virus.

Bill Buchner, WSHU: Joining me now is Dr. Sumeer Sathi. He’s a neurological surgeon with practices in East Patchogue and East Setauket on Long Island. Thank you for joining, All Things Considered.

Dr. Sumeer Sathi: You’re welcome.

BB: Several COVID-19 hotspots have popped up in New York, none so far have lasted on Long Island. But does a second wave of the virus worry you?

SS: It does very much. It would be a disaster for private practices trying to survive on Long Island.

BB: If the positive rate gets high this fall, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hasn’t ruled out the targeted shutdown of hotspots. That means elective surgeries could be a no-go. What would that mean for patients?

SS: Well, we have seen a significant number of patients during the time of pandemic during our initial wave when everything was locked, locked up for elective surgery, who came in after this lockdown ended for elective surgery where they had developed serious consequences of the delay.

Let me give you an example. We have we've had several people who had progressive weakness or paralysis in their arms and legs related to serious pinching of the spinal cord, which they could not address during that time, and they needed urgent surgical treatment when we were able to proceed with the elective surgery

BB: A pause on elective surgeries also puts pressure on your practice.

SS: Yes, I mean, we were able to survive, thankfully to the there was a Medicare stimulus program for physicians who participate in Medicare, which was helpful. We were also we received the payment Protection Program, financial grant, which was also helpful, we were able to maintain a significant portion of our employees, we did furlough about 35% of employees. And we were able to bring them all back at this point. But certainly another round of the lockdown or reduction in elective surgery could be significantly not only it would affect us financially significantly.

BB: How are you taking care of the well being of your staff and patients in terms of safety precautions?

SS: Most of our people that we work with have been employees over practice for a long period of time. We have many mid level employees, such as nurse practitioners and physician assistants, who we were able to maintain due to as I said, the the money from the PPP and the Medicare stimulus. As well as our secretarial staff and medical assistants, but they've had an excellent attitude. During this time, there's been a lot of collegiality and support.

Dr. Sumeer Sathi is the founding member of Long Island Neuroscience Specialists.