Statement by Texas Medical Association (TMA) President David C. Fleeger, MD, about Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s announcement on reopening Texas.
"Texas physicians are pleased that Governor Abbott is taking a gradual, science-based approach to reopen the Texas economy safely. We applaud the governor for placing four outstanding physicians on his recovery strike force and for stating in such a straight-forward manner, ‘We must be guided by the data and the doctors. We must put health and safety first.’
"We obviously look forward to the safe reopening of those portions of our health care system that have been shuttered as we took the steps necessary to slow the spread of this virus. The health of patients not affected by COVID-19 is an overwhelming concern. Telemedicine has been an important tool, but it does not substitute for hands-on examinations of growing children or diagnosing complex health problems. Many of our patients have put off desperately needed surgeries or procedures that can no longer be delayed.
"We cannot throw the switch overnight, however, or we risk a rapid return of a terribly contagious disease that has not yet reached its peak and is still killing dozens of Texans every day. Moving forward on safely reopening our state will require:
Ongoing and consistent compliance with the social distancing practices that have worked so well, so far, at containing the virus in Texas;
Reliable, affordable and widely available testing for our patients, physicians and other health care personnel, and those who have come in contact with COVID-19-positive patients, so we can identify and contain new cases as quickly as possible;
Appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) for non-hospital based/community physicians, nearly two-thirds of whom say they have less than one week’s supply of the most critical supplies, according to a TMA survey conducted late last week;
A huge immediate expansion in our state and local public health infrastructure and workforce so we can track down, isolate, and monitor Texans newly infected with this virus – and anyone who may have contracted it from them; and
A way to cover the health care costs of the millions of Texans who don’t have or recently lost health insurance.
"We appreciate that Governor Abbott has solicited the experts and listened to their advice. We must follow the science. We need to have adequate PPE, and we’re not there yet. We need to have adequate testing, and that’s not available yet in physician offices or in the wider community. And we need to have the ability to track down positive cases based on those tests, something our overextended public health system won’t be able to do in the immediate future.
"Patience has been a critical factor behind our successes so far. We must remain patient, calm, and vigilant. Until we have a vaccine, social distancing remains the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. As the governor said, we must make sure we don’t reopen only to have to shut down again."
TMA is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 53,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 110 component county medical societies around the state. TMA’s key objective since 1853 is to improve the health of all Texans.