Washington, DC (March 4, 2020) — In letters sent this week to members of Congress and the Trump administration, the American College of Physicians (ACP) suggested additional measures the government should take to help the U.S. fight the spread of the novel Coronavirus in this country.
“The COVID-19 virus is rapidly becoming a public-health emergency that poses a grave risk to Americans,” said Robert McLean, MD, MACP, president, ACP, in a letter sent to congressional leadership earlier this week. “Accordingly, there is simply no time to waste. . . Congress must make available all the needed resources so that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal departments and agencies can continue the effort, such as providing guidance and support to state and local health departments, physicians and other clinicians, and the public.”
The letter to Congress went on to urge that funding should be passed that would allow the federal government to purchase adequate supplies for testing, treatment, protection of health care professionals, and development of vaccines. ACP also suggested that when ready, a vaccine for COVID-19 should be made available to the public, especially seniors in Medicare, at no or limited cost through a nationwide vaccine campaign. Lastly, the letter said that lifting telehealth restrictions on Medicare would allow greater access to physicians for patients experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. ACP believes the bipartisan emergency funding bill working its way through Congress is an important step to providing the necessary resources. The bill authorizes Medicare to waive geographic limits on physicians and their clinical care teams who are using telehealth services to care for patients remotely during this public health emergency, as has been recommended by ACP.
In a separate letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) ACP offered its assistance to HHS and CDC to do everything possible to ensure the safety of patients, and to ensure the safety of their physicians and other health care professionals. In addition to emphasizing the need for telehealth and patient care supplies, this letter suggested the administration take steps to make COVID-19 testing free-of-charge to patients, and to waive costs for patients seeking treatment for symptoms that may be indicative of COVID-19. It also emphasized the need to ensure that physicians and other health care professionals are adequately protected.
“It is vital that our federal agencies and public health authorities recognize that health care professionals are at high risk of infection and that addressing their personal protection needs is important in order to sustain the healthcare response for others,” said Dr. McLean in the letter. “There is an urgent need to ensure adequate supplies of diagnostic testing equipment; personal protective equipment including gloves, masks, and gowns; dedicated respiratory support equipment and general care equipment for patients in isolation; isolation care facilities and functional beds; home isolation monitoring healthcare support workers; and social support systems that ensure the ability of health care professionals to present for clinical duties.”
Earlier in the week, ACP had joined the American College of Cardiology in releasing a statement about the need for increased access to telehealth to combat community spread of COVID-19. ACP has also been distributing resources to its physician members in an effort to help frontline physicians prepare.
About the American College of Physicians
The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization in the United States with members in more than 145 countries worldwide. ACP membership includes 159,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
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