COVID-19 has been a game changer
Within a few weeks, the pandemic due to the novel coronavirus became the largest game changer experienced in modern times. This terrible virus has, until now, killed more than 100,000 people worldwide, behaves unpredictably and brings suffering and fear. Its impact on societies across the world is unbelievable with lost lives, lost jobs, a world economy that is under great pressure and other consequences. It just does not seem right to discuss medical education, congresses and meetings in the shadow of all the aforementioned suffering simply because we must now, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, start planning a “new time” for meetings and congresses because this virus is expected to stay among us for a longer period of time.
As many organizations that planned a face-to-face congress for 2020 had to do, the EFORT Board closely followed and analyzed COVID-19 developments. It eventually became a natural consequence of the pandemic to reorganize the face-to-face annual EFORT Congress, which was scheduled to be held June 10-12, 2020 in Vienna, into a virtual EFORT Congress that will take place October 28-30, 2020. The next face-to-face EFORT Congress will be June 30-July 2, 2021, in Vienna.
Orthopaedic surgery postponed
COVID-19 has had a major impact on many orthopaedic and traumatology surgeons. Through cross-national videoconferences held in the weeks after most countries in Europe executed a partial or total lockdown, we learned that most or all planned orthopaedic procedures were postponed. Orthopaedic wards were converted to internal medicine departments and orthopaedic surgeons quickly re-educated themselves to care for patients with infectious diseases and support the hospitals in covering medical care needed for the huge number of patients expected to arrive. We learned how dramatic the situations became in Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and next the United States and we understand that under these circumstances, we cannot perform planned surgeries to treat patients with of non-life-threatening conditions.
We have also learned that all health care professionals (HCPs) are at high risk of being infected with COVID-19 through their jobs. Currently, in Denmark up to 20% of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 are HCPs. This has also resulted in death among HCPs, the ultimate outcome of working with patients who have COVID-19.
Safety of health care professionals
The current, most challenging health issue is how to start up treatment of our patients again without having the pandemic reappear at the same intensity. Another issue is how HCPs should protect themselves from being infected by healthy COVID-19 carriers who see us for treatment of a degenerative locomotor disease. Furthermore, there are unanswered questions about what happens when an orthopaedic surgeon uses power tools during surgery performed on a healthy COVID-19 carrier and body fluids are vaporized. Clearly, although some orthopaedic surgeons may be ready to start performing surgery again, a lot of unknown situations still need to be clarified or analyzed.
Almost overnight, the way orthopaedic and traumatology are practiced has dramatically changed. Many of us hope the “old days” will return. However, to be realistic, we should expect this situation either to take a long time or that the return to the way things once were may never happen. I am sure the COVID-19 global pandemic will impact our daily actions for years. We have learned so much about different ways to live, work and be educated in the process of dealing with the pandemic. When we get to the “other side” of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be no question COVID-19 has become a major game changer for us.
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- Per Kjaersgaard-Andersen, MD, is Chief Medical Editor of Orthopaedics Today Europe. He can be reached at Orthopaedics Today Europe, 6900 Grove Road, Thorofare, NJ 08086, USA; email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclosure: Kjaersgaard-Andersen reports no relevant financial disclosures.