For Georgia to Get Back to Work, Healthcare Must Lead the Way
Friday, May 1st, 2020
There is much debate about when and how businesses should re-open their doors. Whatever you think that timetable should be, there is one thing every business owner should realize:
For businesses to be healthy, our healthcare system must be functioning.
In the past few days, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp and a few other state governors have boldly declared that elective surgeries can resume and that healthcare providers of all kinds can start seeing patients. It was the right decision, but few in our community really understand how important this is to re-opening businesses.
What most of us have seen on the news for the past few weeks are the bed-ridden patients crowded in the hallway of a New York hospital or the doctors in Albany who are emotional over the severity and volume of COVID-19 patients. These are important stories, they are real, and the brave healthcare workers should be lauded for their efforts.
However, there is another healthcare story that has largely gone untold.
The vast majority of healthcare facilities in Georgia and throughout the country have a fraction of the volume of patients they normally have. Not just a fraction of the COVID-19 patients, but any patients. Emergency room visits are way down. Urgent care visits have all but disappeared. Physician practices are seeing less than half their normal number of patients. Dentists have only been able to practice in emergencies.
Economically, the result of this is huge. Healthcare is the single largest segment of our economy, representing 18% of GDP. The closing of Georgia physician offices and outpatient services alone represents an estimated $64 million a day in lost revenue.
Further, millions of nurses, doctors and other healthcare providers across the country have been furloughed, fired or given pay cuts. Today, Georgia has thousands of unemployed healthcare workers. Ironically, in a time of a global pandemic, we have the highest level of physician and nurse unemployment in history.
There are multiple causes of the decline in patients. Many states prohibited non-essential procedures in an effort to preserve beds, equipment and PPE for the expected surge of COVID-19 patients. Due to the drastic decline in the number of people riding in cars, playing sports and engaging in other higher-risk activities, there are fewer accidents and injuries that send people to the ER.
But much of the decline has been because people haven’t felt safe going to the doctor.
Unless someone thinks they have COVID-19, they have put off going to a medical facility for fear of catching it there. Cancer patients are delaying treatment. People aren’t getting prescriptions refilled. It is believed that even people who are experiencing heart attack symptoms are avoiding going to the hospital.
Business owners know that one of the requirements of building a healthy business is having access to quality healthcare for their workforce. Even in normal times, we spend considerable amounts of money and energy determining the most effective way to get healthcare services for our employees.
As business owners, we must have confidence in our healthcare systems to be able to deliver care. But more importantly, our employees and our customers must have confidence in healthcare providers.
When someone is afraid to go see their doctor, how can we expect them to come to our business?
The hospitals in Georgia have done an incredible job of increasing capacity for the care of critical COVID- 19 patients. The state of Georgia has done its part in supporting these incredible institutions with resources. Our firm has been honored to partner with the state in deploying nearly 1,000 healthcare professionals to the areas of Georgia where they have been most needed to fight COVID-19.
Now it is time to let our healthcare professionals do what they do best – treat patients. Hospitals, clinics, surgery centers and doctors’ offices must be trusted to take care of patients in responsible and caring ways. They are accustomed to managing infectious diseases alongside other ailments. We must empower them to make decisions that are informed by their capacity, their supplies and their care for their patients.
When our healthcare community becomes healthy again, the rest of us can follow. It’s time to hear, “Georgia, the doctors will see y’all now.”