We are certainly living and working in unprecedented times with unanticipated challenges. As I write this, the COVID-19 pandemic is ramping up in the state of Massachusetts, with almost 5000 confirmed cases and 48 deaths. By the time you read this, it will be exponentially higher.
Visit www.mass.gov/covid-19 for updated information and resources.
All over our state, family physicians have important roles in almost every aspect of the pandemic. Whether you are fielding phone calls from symptomatic or anxious patients, on-boarding with your telemedicine access, trying to protect your staff and healthy patients in the office, triaging and treating patients at urgent care, or managing the highest risk patients in emergency rooms and hospital wards, we are in a changed world. Some of you have been called out of retirement or community-based care and given emergency credentials to help with inpatient care due to a surge of sick patients or coworkers falling ill. All are reading frantically to keep up with changing guidelines and recommendations to advise and treat patients. All are watching closely the availability of COVID-19 testing and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the ominous progression of the viral infection sweeping our country. All are concerned for the resources and capacity of our system and the well-being of our patients, ourselves, and our families.
In retrospect, our MassAFP Spring Refresher in March was very appropriately postponed to an *undetermined time in the future, and its priorities pale in the face of this pandemic. While I am eagerly awaiting installation as your president, the plans I had to share with you about our three-year strategic plan seem much less urgent. While our commitment remains strong to advocate for family medicine, physician well-being, and sustainability in a changing healthcare infrastructure, the challenges of the pandemic have exposed the urgent needs of our healthcare system.
This comes at a time when family physicians were already feeling beleaguered by administrative burdens, payment complexity, and fragmentation of care. However, when faced with a public health need, we suddenly remember the reason why we felt this calling to become family physicians. That said, the stresses are real—knowing our most vulnerable patients are most at risk, knowing all patients must participate in social distancing, and also knowing we must keep practices financially solvent.
To help you navigate this crisis, MassAFP has assembled a COVID-19 resource page to assist you in rapidly changing algorithms, as well the ins and outs of practicing telemedicine. The AAFP has published a practice preparation checklist as well as a position statement on ensuring PPE for physicians.
There has never been a more crucial need for family physicians, and for now, it is our task to strive to provide the clinical, emotional, and practice management supports that our members need during this crisis, to maintain wellbeing and to serve the patients of Massachusetts.
Michele Parker, MD, FAAFP
*Although the annual business meeting, along with the Spring Refresher, has been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, MassAFP is continuing with its routine business. We continue to advocate on our members’ behalf and now, even more than ever. Becky Wimmer, along with MassAFP staff is working on alternate plans to hold a virtual annual meeting so MassAFP can officially move forward with new officers and directors as well as other academy business normally addressed during the live meeting. In addition, we are close to a new date for the Spring Refresher, so watch your inboxes for this information coming soon.