AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas Medical Association has formed a COVID-19 task force in an effort to help physicians to prepare for a coronavirus outbreak, or even just one infected patient walking in their doors.
On Tuesday, TMA hosted a tele-townhall to update primary care doctors across the state.
At the beginning of the phone conference, TMA president Dr. David Fleeger polled the nearly 1,800 physicians on the line, asking them to rate how prepared they feel to deal with a coronavirus outbreak in their community.
The scale was one to 5-1, being not at all prepared, and 5 being very prepared. The poll revealed 60% of the physicians on the phone call said they are not prepared.
Thirty percent answered they are somewhat prepared, and only 9-10% answered they are totally prepared. Fleeger said this is exactly why they were holding the town hall.
“I wasn’t surprised and that’s why we’re doing this. We are putting out the message, doctors and patients need to keep calm and prepare, and we’re in the process of making sure they can prepare,” Fleeger said.
TMA’s recommended protocol includes encouraging each practice to make its own plan.
“Doctors need to educate themselves, educate their staff, put a protocol in place to manage the patient that could potentially have symptoms and may have the virus,” Fleeger said.
This includes making sure physicians know how to handle an infected patient in their waiting room.
Dr. Tony Aventa, a member of TMA at the Capital Medical Clinic, was among the small portion of physicians who answered the poll positively. He said his office is prepared.
“We’re getting different surfaces are cleaned down more often, we’re doing that throughout the day,” Aventa explained.
He said patients who call ahead with symptoms will not be spending any time in the waiting room.
“What we’re doing with our triage system is, our patients that are sick with upper respiratory symptoms, we’re going to be having our staff go down and bring them to another area… so we can help keep our regular patients free from coronavirus as well,” Aventa said.
Another part of the protocol is being able to relay information to patients.
“For me personally, when I go in, I want to be demonstrating the importance of hand washing, I’ll be letting them know that it’s better to be hand washing than handshaking right now,” Aventa said.
He added that he always answers any questions patients might have regarding the coronavirus during their visit.
Fleeger said if any physician in Texas has questions, they can refer to the organization’s website, or reach out to TMA directly.