Donald V. Watkins
America is Unprepared for COVID 19 Pandemic
By: Donald V. Watkins
© Copyrighted and Published on March 22, 2020
America -- the richest country in the world in the 21st century -- is woefully unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. In the midst of a global public health crisis and declared national emergency, Americans are learning very disturbing facts from the doctors, respiratory therapists, and nurses who are working around the clock in hospital emergency rooms and front line clinics in a desperate effort to successfully battle this pandemic. Here are the truisms from our frontline responders:
1. Our Hospitals Lack an Adequate Supply of PPE
Our hospitals and clinics do not have an adequate supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals on the front lines in the COVID 19 crisis. They are lacking N95 masks, gowns, protective face shields, nitrile gloves, anti-viral soaps and detergents, anti-viral sanitary wipes, and other essential medical supplies for first responders. The U.S.-based companies that could prioritize the production of PPE are continuing to produce their regular portfolio of products as though there is no pandemic.
Last week, the CDC gave doctors on the front line permission to use homemade bandannas until they can get an adequate supply of N95 masks. This puts doctors and their support staff at risk in the hospitals, clinics, and at home.
American hospitals and doctors need more plastic PPE products and equipment, now. They need ventilators and plastic ventilation tubes for intubating crashing COVID 19 patients. Domestic PPE manufacturers need to ramp up their production of these items on an emergency basis. During a coronavirus pandemic, we do not need plastic manufacturers making silicon breast implants to satisfy America's insatiable demand for cosmetic surgery and vanity fulfillment. We need massive amounts of PPE.
Also, Botox supplies aren't critical, but antibiotic and anti-viral supplies are. Furthermore, Amazon's guaranteed two-day delivery of reams of 24-roll packages of toilet paper to household hoarders is not an essential service at this time, but the delivery of urgently needed supplies of PPE at hospitals and clinics is.
2. Rich and Famous Get Taken Care of First
It is an open secret in the healthcare industry that rich and famous Americans who are sick get taken care of first. During the COVID 19 crisis, Americans have seen where rich celebrities, national politicians, and sports figures have been able to get coronavirus testing before ordinary Americans could be tested. They are also getting priority access to the limited supply of ventilators and respiratory equipment.
This preferential medical treatment is nothing new. It is a by-product of our capitalist society. Big money always speaks loud enough to be heard in a crisis.
Rich and famous Americans have always been able to cut to the front of the line for VIP medical attention and procedures. They are able to get organ transplants, innovative medical devices, and critical surgeries long before ordinary Americans. I watched Johns Hopkins Medical Center engage in this practice in the early 1980s with respect to its preferential treatment for rich patients who needed the automatic implantable defibrillator, which prevented death from an irregular heartbeat, and with patients who wanted innovative prostate surgery that left male patients with the ability to achieve and maintain an penile erection after shaving their enlarged prostate.
Hospitals, medical centers, and doctors justify this preferential treatment by saying it gives them a leg-up on soliciting major charitable donations from this class of VIP patients. Whether this preferential treatment is sustainable during the COVID 19 pandemic is an open question.
3. Administrators Make Decisions on the Quality of a Patient's Healthcare, Not Doctors
Health administrators for insurance companies and hospitals are making medical decisions about patient care, not front-line doctors. Administrators are the ones in charge, and they are making decisions that doctors know are unethical and unsafe.
Healthcare administrators sit in the safety of their offices and/or homes and tell frontline doctors and supporting hospital staff members that, even though they do not have an adequate supply of PPE like masks, gowns, face shields, and gloves, these first responders must "suck it up" and continue to work. First responders are told to reuse PPE when there is a shortage of PPE.
Administrators at non-physician-led healthcare organizations are refusing to "allow" doctors to cancel non-urgent routine patient appointments and surgeries in order to protect patients from exposure to COVID 19 because they want to continue business as usual and collect co-pays.
Administrators at non-physician led healthcare organizations are refusing to allow physicians to test patients they know should be tested. They are forbidding doctors from publicly posting on social media about the COVID 19 crisis under the pretense that they may be "inciting panic." These administrators are threatening the jobs of physicians who do not comply with these directives.
Healthcare administrators with MBAs are forcing ER doctors to follow the mandates of individuals who have no medical training and who have not taken an oath to "do no harm" to patients. They are literally telling MDs or ODs what to do in the middle of the COVID 19 pandemic.
The physicians and nurses who are treating patients without proper protection are at high risk of catching the infection. They will inevitably become super-spreaders of the coronavirus. They will end up passing the virus along to other patients during the asymptomatic period and bringing it home to their families before becoming infected patients themselves.
4. Obamacare Provided 20 Million Uninsured Americans With Access to Healthcare
Unfortunately for patients, America's current healthcare system has built-in structural barriers that prevent it from responding appropriately to a public health crisis of this magnitude, especially on a nationwide ramped up basis. Four years ago, Republican candidates for national office ran on a platform of repealing Obamacare, which expanded private health insurance to nearly 20 million previously uninsured Americans. Today, these newly insured Americans are covered for medical conditions arising from the coronavirus.
Ironically, the federal government is now on the verge of providing free healthcare for every American infected by the virus.
The government has also announced that Americans will be tested for the virus for free. Whether those who are uninsured and who test positive for the virus will receive free medical care is an open question.
5. America Outsources Critical PPE Supplies to Other Countries
America's COVID problem is further compounded by the fact that we outsourced the production of our critical supplies of pills, medicines, and vital PPE to places like China, India, Thailand, and Haiti. For the most part, the primary producers of PPE are located beyond our borders. America -- the greatest nation on the planet -- is now dependent on critical medical supplies from other nations to save its citizens from the wrath of the COVID 19 pandemic.
As we have already seen with COVID 19, global supply chains, dependent on just-in-time delivery of medicines and essential PPE, are vulnerable to disruption in a global pandemic. The face-off between the factors that reduce our vulnerability and those that increase it leave Americans at considerable risk. This is why the American public needs accurate information about COVID 19 in order to build community trust. This is particularly true since America's voting population has split into two political tribes -- Democrats and Republicans -- that are constantly fighting each other in very nasty ways during this 2020 election year.
6. Continuing Unfiltered Updates
At donaldwatkins.com, we ask the difficult questions about how the pandemic is being handled in America and around the world. We also present the best available answers to our readers regarding these questions, without fear or favor. In the face of varying and mutating responses from public officials, donaldwatkins.com serves as an essential ally of the public health community in fighting the pandemic. We are also dedicated to providing the American public with spin-free medical updates on the COVID 19 pandemic.
Donaldwatkins.com also has unfiltered access to front line COVID 19 information from a network of highly qualified medical providers in over 40 countries by virtue of the Watkins family's recognized history as pioneers in cutting edge medical research, surgical techniques, and medical devices. This information was initially gathered for extended members of the Watkins family, our close personal and professional friends, and our domestic and international business partners, but we are now sharing it with the public on my donaldwatkins.com website and Facebook pages as a public service message.
Practice social distancing and stay safe. God bless.