Friday, March 19, 2021

Covid Arrived And My Anesthesia Group Died

Hard to believe that it has been a year since the arrival of Covid in the United States. It has wreaked devastation across the landscape, both economically and personally. Millions of people lost their jobs. Millions more got sick and hundreds of thousands have died. 

It's been twelve months since I've lamented that I dropped out of the LA Marathon that ran on March 8, 2020. At the time, the CDC, Dr. Fauci, and plenty of so called "experts" commented that covid will be no worse than the seasonal flu. How wrong we were then. The devastation was just beginning. 

Little did I know that part of the destruction would visit me on a professional level. At the beginning of 2020, our operating rooms were still running like gangbusters. Our surgical volume was set for another record year. Seemed like it was shaping up to be another very prosperous year for our anesthesia group with plenty of bonuses to go around by December. Then everything stopped.

The government ordered all nonessential businesses to shut down for an indeterminate length of time. That included most of our elective surgeries. Basically any cases not involving cancer or life and death situations were cancelled. Our OR cases dropped by more than 50%. Everybody in the group suddenly became underemployed, working one or two days per week. Our income likewise plummeted to heretofore unthinkable levels. Who knew how long this was going to last.

Reprieve granted April 22
Then in late spring, California's Governor Newsom declared that hospitals can start opening up again as the first surge of the coronavirus started to abate. Slowly the operating rooms got busier. But it couldn't get as busy as it was prior to the pandemic as multiple safety protocols were put in place. Getting every single patient tested for covid prior to surgery proved extremely challenging. Rules for proper testing were fluid and ever changing. But we struggled through the summer as the hospital eventually developed a new pattern of normalcy.

But by early fall, there appeared to be another surge starting to form and our volume dropped again. This was starting to get very scary for every anesthesiologist in the group. We could not maintain our livelihoods based on the vagaries of the action of a virus. What if a vaccine doesn't get developed for years? What happens if many of us with large student loan debts and new mortgages to pay are pushed into insolvency? There seemed to be only one way out of this quagmire. And the answer was something we were determined never to do until we had to do it--we abandoned our medical group and joined with our hospital as employees. 

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