WASHINGTON, D.C.—A global pandemic is not stopping America’s emergency physicians from advocating directly with lawmakers about what Congress can do to protect the nation’s patients and health care workers. Instead of their traditional trek to Capitol Hill, tomorrow nearly 500 emergency physicians across the country will meet virtually with their members of Congress to share their perspectives from the frontlines.
The two main issues the physicians hope to convey to Congress during the meetings are the severe shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) and how the government can help emergency physicians and emergency departments stay afloat during these precarious times.
The dearth of PPE is forcing some emergency physicians to utilize whatever PPE they can get, whether through their hospital or community donation or something brought from home. We need to take action now to fill this gap with every resource we have available, including centralized coordination with broad use of the Defense Production Act and fully utilizing the Strategic National Stockpile.
“Faced with a lack of necessary resources, emergency physicians are taking extraordinary measures to care for patients,” said William Jaquis, MD, FACEP, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP). “More must be done to make sure that PPE and critical equipment move through production and to the bedside.”
Emergency physicians face disproportionate risk and unexpected costs as they do everything they can to help in communities where they are needed most. In addition to lacking PPE, many emergency departments have medicine or ventilator shortages, limited bed space or other resource constraints. Some emergency physicians are living in temporary housing to avoid exposing their family to the virus, while others seeing benefits cut or shifts reduced as their employers navigate widespread economic uncertainty.
Now more than ever emergency physicians need flexibility and support from the federal government in our protracted battle against COVID-19. The situation on the ground is shifting rapidly, and their frontline perspectives will ensure Congress can act quickly and effectively in providing the assistance our health care system needs.