Tired from working long shifts during the pandemic? Feeling overwhelmed by seeing suffering and death from Covid-19? Worried about catching the Covid-19 coronavirus yourself in the clinics and hospitals that you are working in and then potentially bringing the virus back to your families? Frustrated by the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) like N95 face masks? Hungry because you’ve had to skip meals to care for patients? Well, doctors, don’t despair, here’s something that may turn your frown upside down. And then perhaps upside down again.
President Donald Trump is now suggesting that you (if you are a doctor) may be helping inflate the Covid-19 death count in order to, drum roll please, make more money.
Is your jaw still attached to the rest of your face after hearing that? Yep, that’s what the real estate mogul turned President said during a campaign rally on Saturday in Wisconsin. Just take a look at this Independent video:
Doesn’t this make you feel warm all over? Perhaps. But maybe not in the way that you’d like.
Trump started this segment of his campaign speech by saying that the Covid-19 death reporting systems in the U.S. are “a little bit backwards.” Ok, that’s a reasonable statement. Many of the disease surveillance systems in the U.S. can be a bit rotary telephone-esque. So, if Trump had stopped there, he would have had a valid point. Oh, but he didn’t.
The next things that came out of his mouth were: “You know some countries they report differently. If somebody’s sick with a heart problem, and they die of Covid they say they die of a heart problem. If somebody’s terminally ill with cancer and they have Covid, we report them. And you know doctors get more money and hospitals get more money. Think of this incentive.”
Oh no he didn’t. Trump didn’t suggest that the over 225,000 Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. is an inflated number, did he? He didn’t suggest that doctors are helping that number did he?
When you make such a claim, it helps to provide something called evidence and facts to support your claim. Otherwise, you may seem like you are pulling the claim out of a certain part of your body that may possibly rhyme with lemon grass. However, in his campaign speech, Trump didn’t seem to provide any such evidence.
As I have covered previously for Forbes, conspiracy theorists have claimed that Covid-19 death tolls are being deliberately inflated without providing much compelling evidence. Sure some have claimed that things like gun shot wound deaths are being counted as Covid-19 deaths but these assertions don’t seem to hold much water. After all, something like a gun shot would is pretty darn obvious. Doctors don’t tend to say, “besides that life-threatening gun shot wound, is there anything that we should take care of first? Do you happen to have any diarrhea?” I also reported for Forbes how Twitter in late August removed a tweet from a Mel Q (not to be confused with Mel C or Mel B from the Spice Girls) that Trump had re-tweeted. The eventually deleted tweet incorrectly claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) “admitted” that only 6% of the reported deaths from Covid-19 were actually from the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2).
Well, many medical associations and organizations didn’t take kindly to the implication that physicians have been cooking the books. For ACOG, which is not a cog but rather stands for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, tweeted the following:
And here’s what the American Medical Association (AMA) had to say:
Notice that neither of these organizations mentioned Trump by name. The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP), though, did specifically name Trump in their statement:
And 45 different medical and surgical specialty societies, many of which battle with each other frequently like Game of Thrones characters, came out with a unified statement:
Perhaps Trump was confusing doctors with the nation’s 644 billionaires, who have seen their net worth increase by nearly $1 trillion since March according to recent analysis. In the meantime, the pay of many doctors have on the other hand gone South. And in this case, South doesn’t mean Aruba. Back in April, cuts were already occurring as hospitals and health care systems no longer had the same amount of revenue, as Bruce Japsen reported for Forbes. The pandemic had forced many health care facilities to shut down their non-essential services such as cosmetic surgery and other elective procedures that have long been bigger money makers. Left with taking care of, you know, really sick patients who needed medical care, health care systems were no longer making as much money. So who had to take hits? How about the health care professionals actually doing the work, such as doctors and nurses? A survey conducted by Merrit Hawkins and The Physicians Foundation found that 21% of U.S. physicians had actually “experienced a furlough or pay cut” during the pandemic. Things seem to have gotten worse since then as Medscape recently reported that 62% of U.S. physicians answering another survey had suffered pay drops.
A number of physicians echoed these findings. For example, Anne M. Mills, M.D., an Associate Professor of Pathology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine tweeted the following:
If anything, the pandemic is showing how screwed up the health care system is right now adn why health care reform is so desperately needed. In the middle of a health crisis like the pandemic, you’d expect physicians to be compensated for their work. After all, shouldn’t the capital flow towards those whose services are most needed, whose work is most valued? When physicians are suffering pay cuts instead, something’s not right.