Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is still raging across the country with no end in sight. As regions are discussing how to reopen safely, we are seeing large daily upticks in the number of cases, especially in the South and Southwest. We’ve heard from you about the new and recurring challenges you face as you try to safely treat your patients during this difficult time—and we have created, and are continually updating, a list of advocacy priorities that guide our daily work. Our priorities cover a full range of issues, including those related to testing, personal protective equipment (PPE), reimbursement and financial sustainability, liability protections, and mental health. We have categorized these priorities under three main buckets:
- Providing access to care for those infected or suspected to be infected;
- Securing an adequate workforce; and
- Ensuring adequate resource allocation.
Over the last several months, ACEP has worked with key decisionmakers within the Trump Administration and Congress to address many of the priority issues. I have described some of these efforts in previous Regs & Eggs posts, including our work with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide you with more regulatory flexibility (such as allowing you to perform medical screening exams via telehealth); our attempts to secure additional funding for emergency physicians from the Provider Relief Fund; and the steps we have taken to help improve your access to mental health treatment should you need it.
However, there are numerous other actions ACEP has taken that I haven’t previously touched upon in Regs & Eggs posts. For example, ACEP has had weekly conversations with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to discuss best clinical practices, share experiences from the ground, and hear more about current or upcoming guidance that could impact you and your patients. We have shared the insights we have gleaned from CDC on ACEP’s COVID-19 website and our COVID-19 communications hub.
We have also shared your stories about ongoing struggles obtaining PPE or being able to use your own PPE without fear of reprisal with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The Joint Commission (TJC), and the American Hospital Association. We met with the TJC in March prior to the Commission issuing a statement that supports your right to bring your own PPE to work when your health care organization can’t routinely provide it. While the TJC statement was helpful, we are still hearing painful PPE-related stories from you, and therefore have recently asked OSHA for a meeting to further discuss your concerns.
Finally, we have had conversations with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on testing challenges, including the availability of point of care tests and the inconsistent sensitivity and specificity levels for current antigen and antibody tests. Our next meeting with the FDA is on Monday.
In all, ACEP’s advocacy on your behalf continues and we know that these issues aren’t going away anytime soon. If you have ideas that are not currently on the list of our advocacy priorities, please send them my way.
Until next week, this is Jeffrey saying, enjoy reading regs with your eggs!