With the coronavirus pandemic flaring in other states, Massachusetts is fortunate to be experiencing a low positivity rate as we position our communities to return to school. Currently in phase 3 of Reopening the State, each community and school district must plan its own strategy for safe learning within the Center for Disease Control and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education guidelines.
In response to your input from our member survey, the MassAFP has released a School Reopening statement on our website in which we recognize the importance of attending school for the educational, social, and psychological needs of children, as well as science-based evidence to support the safety and wellbeing of not only children, but the adults at the school workplace, and the adults at home. We recognize the vital role that family physicians play in supporting and educating communities, from children to parents, grandparents, teachers, school nurses and school staff, and special needs children and caregivers. We care for them all, and together we must encourage children and adults to stay home if they are sick.
In that spirit, we welcome you to join us for our collaborative webinar with the Massachusetts Medical Society, the Massachusetts chapter of the American College of Physicians, and the Massachusetts chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics on “COVID-19 and School Reopening.” Presentations from experts in infectious disease and public health will be followed by Q&A with panelists from the Department of Public Health and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. We will offer physicians of all specialties the tools and resources to apply guidelines and ask questions. Save the date: Wednesday, September 9, 2020 from 7:30-9 pm, and watch your email for a zoom link.
Our reopening strategy would not be complete without examining the inequities and systemic racism that disadvantage students of color. Whether it is economic (job loss, eviction, food insecurity) or healthcare disparities worsened by the pandemic, we have an obligation to examine our biases and rectify those differences. The MassAFP has also put forth an Anti-Racism Statement, committing to embrace diversity and denounce racism in our teaching and healthcare institutions, as well as our own leadership in this organization. We have charged our Public Health Workgroup to make recommendations for member education, self-assessment, patient resources, and advocacy at the state level to address racism.
The pandemic has delivered a financial blow to many family medicine practices, whether employed or independent, and physicians may be facing pay cuts, unemployment, or bankruptcy. Telemedicine has been a lifeline for some practices, despite the learning curve of adopting new technology, new workflow and assessment skills, and new documentation and coding. Our advocacy at the state level is critical to making sure telemedicine remains a financially viable option for physicians and patients. Our strategic plan includes promoting primary care investment and sustainability, and I welcome your thoughts on other ways we can support our members and their practices, whether through physician recruitment, navigating contracts, applying for forgiveness on Payment Protection Plan loans, finding PPE, or exploring new practice models such as Direct Primary Care.
It’s that time of year to recognize our amazing colleagues and nominate someone you know to be our Family Physician of the Year, Family Medicine Educator of the Year, or member of our Preceptor Hall of Fame. Let’s acknowledge those dedicated physicians!
Stay safe and stay engaged!
Michele C. Parker, MD, FAAFP