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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

We’ve been told over and over again that doctors, nurses and medical professionals on the front lines are “heroes,” and I won’t disagree with that in the least, but if they are so necessary and critical to the future of America, why have so many been laid off and furloughed due to COVID-19 stay-at-home and essential surgery orders?

As of the time of my writing this piece, 256 hospital systems had furloughed workers in response to coronavirus — and this somehow isn’t national news. The only sources for this information have been local news outlets, which the BeckersHospitalReview.com has compiled. Here’s just an incredibly small sample of the losses to the medical field:


Monadnock Community Hospital in Peterborough, New Hampshire, lost $1.7 million in March and expects to lose $24 million by September because of coronavirus.

Bristol Hospital in Bristol, Connecticut, has furloughed 103 employees and cut hours of about 200 members of its staff. It expect to lose between $15 million and $18 million by September.

Mercy Iowa City in Iowa is furloughing roughly 7.5 percent of its staff.

Michigan Medicine will furlough or lay off 1,400 full-time employees and expects a $230 million loss in the fiscal year ending June 30.

LMH Health in Lawrence, Kansas, has furloughed 221 employees in order to combat its losses.

And the University of Chicago Medical Center plans to furlough 8 percent of its workforce, the equivalent of 800 employees, because of $70 million in lost operating revenue in March and April due to the suspension of elective procedures.

When we see constant commercials and news pieces about how medical professionals are heroes on the front line, we see spin. Yes, those few doctors and nurses on the front line of fighting COVID-19 are critical, but so are the remaining thousands who work in hospitals protecting the health of millions of Americans on the front lines of the battle against cancer, HIV/AIDS, the flu, and thousands of other issues. They have been completely forgotten.

And although, I’m sure these front-line health care workers appreciate a free coffee from Starbucks and a billboard in your local town telling them how great they are — more important to them is their own basic income and the health of their communities that includes everything else outside of COVID-19 — you know — everything that would be included in the elective surgeries that were banned in most states.

Many medical professionals have sat at home, panicked about their patients who they have grown to care about who were scheduled to have heart surgery or a mastectomy two months ago that, at that point, would have been more casual, yet necessary, but have now become critical and near emergency.

So, where are the mainstream stories on this? Where are the stories about medical systems that were so underused that they’re going out of business? Why hasn’t this become a major concern in our country?

When our country began its stay-at-home and essential-business-order journey, we were told that “flattening-the-curve” was keeping hospitals from being overrun. In many areas of the country, hospitals didn’t even see more than a few handfuls of coronavirus patients — and many didn’t even require hospitalizations.

When you think about it, we have seen more coverage of nurses and doctors dressing in PPE that we were constantly told was running low, performing well-choreographed dance routines or twerking on IV polls because they are so bored on their slow hospital shifts. Where were the follow up stories to investigate the number of patients and beds being used in those hospitals to expose exactly why they had all that free time?

I’ve comically heard the line that, “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean.” When applied here, if they’ve got time and equipment to waste, why wouldn’t they be open to other elective surgeries and patients who need their help with anything other than COVID-19?

Reopening the country isn’t like flipping a switch. The damage to the economy will now take years to correct for, but worse yet is the damage to our medical facilities. The loss of money caused by the coronavirus panic and shutdowns will not only have long-term effects on the ability of medical professionals to earn a living, but the health of their patients who are just now able to line-up for a backlog of what were once elective surgeries — and are now becoming critical.

So, back to the question I have asked a few times in this piece so far: Where was the widespread coverage of this? We were told one virus would be the worst medical emergency in history — and it now appears there will be many more medical emergencies caused by the overreaction to it in many parts of America. I guess those stories just don’t fit the narrative.  

• Tim Young is a political comedian and author of “I Hate Democrats/I Hate Republicans” (Post Hill Press).


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