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Don't keep family doctors out of COVID fight

Primary care practices have long been on the frontlines of managing care for ill patients. In this country we have set up a system of care with primary care physicians coordinating all aspects of a patient’s medical needs and it has worked. Unfortunately, throughout this pandemic, primary care doctors have been left behind. Testing capabilities for COVID-19, until recently, have been farmed out to pharmacies and large laboratory systems. As a result, patients have had trouble getting tested. Now as the vaccine for COVID-19 is being rolled out we are making the same mistakes. The result has been slow mass vaccinations and patients struggling to get their vaccine.

Primary care practices have vaccinated patients against influenza for years. We have tested patients in our offices for a variety of illnesses. This has been done effectively and efficiently. Many practices boast large percentages of their patient populations vaccinated annually. Primary care practices were trusted and heavily involved in the successful distribution and administration of the H1N1 vaccine in 2009. With such a robust infrastructure in place for vaccinations why are primary care doctors being overlooked?

Testing and vaccinations in a primary care setting can drastically reduce the burdens put upon hospital and emergency room staffs who are caring for the sickest patients. Primary care doctors are already fielding many phone calls and telemedicine appointments for our most vulnerable populations. It makes sense to coordinate through them.

The Connecticut Medical Group Management Association and the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians represent hundreds of physician practices who are on the front lines and are completely underutilized in this fight. Despite attempts to appeal to the Department of Public Health we are left to a minor role. We are hopeful this can change, and we are ready to move forward.

Dr. Jed Beaulier is president of the Connecticut Medical Group Management Association and practice administrator for Mansfield Family Practice. Dr. Emmanuel Kenta-Bibi is president of the Connecticut Academy of Family Physicians.

 

 

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