COVID-19: Physicians need to continue ‘plugging away’ for a brighter 2022
This month’s cover story features the perspectives of gastroenterologists looking back on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on gastrointestinal care.
We can see the same themes in all of the stories from the tertiary center, the private practice and the endoscopy center — the “hunkering down” and preparing for the first wave, the relative lull in routine care in 2020, and then the slow buildup and backlog over 2021, at the same time trying to fight the waves of the pandemic, short-handed of course.
Samir A. Shah, MD, FACG, brings up an important point — I hadn’t fully appreciated the effect of lowering the age for colorectal cancer screening from 50 to 45 on adding to the backlog in GI practices. My own experiences mirror these stories. In my practice it is typical for open slots to be about 6 weeks out, but in the second half of 2021, it has been more like 10 to 12 weeks. This delay engenders a cycle where patients who can’t get in right away may need to go to the emergency department, putting further strain on the system.
There have also been a few instances where patients were hospitalized elsewhere — in a pre-COVID world maybe they would have been transferred to our hospital, but now that is incredibly unlikely because we’re on diversion.
We have to keep on plugging away, trying to fit in the urgent patients where we can, and hope for the best. My hope is that the omicron wave is “the last gasp” of the epidemic phase of the virus, and maybe we will achieve something close to herd immunity after this. Here’s to a brighter 2022!