Several MMA members provided real-life stories of dealing with COVID-19 on the front lines before a House Health Finance and Policy Committee meeting on January 13, via Zoom.
“As MMA president I have heard from many colleagues across the state that the challenges and stresses with COVID are real and continue,” MMA President Randy Rice, MD, told the committee. He then went on to describe the challenges he faces as a family medicine physician in rural Moose Lake.
He informed the committee about the impact COVID-19 is having on the physical and mental well-being of physicians, nurses, and other staff. He also shared the challenges of treating patients who question physician recommendations because of misinformation they are receiving through social media or elsewhere.
MMA Secretary/Treasurer Carolyn McClain, MD, an emergency physician in the west metro and in several rural Minnesota communities, walked the committee through a day in the emergency department during the COVID-19 era. “One of the hardest pieces [during the pandemic] is the lack of trust patients have toward the [care team.]”
“Though Omicron appears to be a milder strain, it is still a very serious illness,” said MMA member Craig Daniels, MD, a pulmonologist and critical care specialist at Mayo Clinic. “There is a hard limit at how much we can push our systems and ourselves.” He made a plea for Minnesotans to get vaccinated, mask up, stay home when sick, and be kind. “We are not directing you, we are asking you.”
Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm began the hearing with an overview of Minnesota’s COVID-19 statistics and the steps her department has taken to address the pandemic.
Committee Chair Rep. Tina Liebling (DFL-Rochester) said these stories are ones that the public needs to hear. “I can’t recall a hearing that has had as much impact [on members] as this one,” she said.
Committees in the House and Senate are meeting pre-session to assess the state of the pandemic in Minnesota. The House hearing focused on real stories from frontline healthcare workers to inform policymakers about the effect of the pandemic on hospitals and clinics, and the need to continue encouraging vaccinations, masking and social distancing.