HARLINGEN, Texas — Gastroenterologist Dr. Nolan Perez is one of many physicians who could not perform surgeries amid COVID-19 emergency orders by Texas Governor Greg Abbott to preserve protective equipment and hospital beds for coronavirus patients.
The orders essentially closed medical offices across the state with physicians turning toward facetime, phone calls and texting to check in on patients.
“We pretty much employed telehealth, telemedicine in all of our visits in our office so pretty much all of my staff is working from home,” Dr Perez said on a video chat with CBS4/LOCAL 23 News.
As Texas is expected to loosen emergency orders in late April, hands-on care and treatment have dropped, explained Dr. Perez.
“Procedure volume it’s about 10 to 15% of what it was before so that is a huge financial hit for our business.”
The hit has not impacted employment as Dr. Perez claimed to not have furloughed or laid off any staff members, “I want to make sure that they [have] a livelihood.”
Dr. Perez, expects the drop-in procedures to spike in November.
“To be quite honest with you it is going to take some time for folks to get comfortable with going out.”
Until patients are comfortable, Perez will continue with telemedicine. The tech-based care is new to Dr. Perez, and he was skeptical at first.
However, now believes telemedicine should be a part of everyday treatment for high-risk patients.
“It’s actually been quite effective,” Dr. Perez proclaimed. “We are lobbying the governor’s office in the state of Texas. We are telling them these temporary changes made to telehealth, where you pay them the same as a face-to-face, in-person visits should be made permanent.”
Part of the push for a permanent change to tech-based care is minimizing risk for patients who are difficult to transport and are at risk of catching COVID-19 but it is also extended to protecting staff.
“For the foreseeable future, I think that these changes are important because we need the most vulnerable, the most at-risk patients to still be at home.”
Dr. Perez added, “I can tell you that when we reopen our offices, I have about 8 or 10 employees that I don’t want them coming back just yet because they have chronic illnesses and I want them to still remain in working from home.”