Coronavirus Impact: Some private practices, clinics consider closing over financial pressures amid pandemic, survey says

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A survey by the California Health Care Foundation found that private health care practices are not immune to the financial setback this pandemic has created. Across the state, primary care doctors are reporting concerns about having to close their practices over the novel coronavirus pandemic.

According to the survey doctors practicing in smaller practices with 5 physicians or less in the clinic seemed to be experiencing the most challenges.

"Nearly 1/3 of physicians in small practices that we heard from reported that patients and workers in their clinic simply are unable to get COVID-19 testing right now. More than 40% of physicians in small practices say they don't have adequate personal protective equipment," said Kristof Stremikis, director of market analysis at the California Health Care Foundation.

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The survey found that doctors were concerned about not having enough PPE and COVID-19 testing for patients and staff.

"It was very surprising to us but more than a third of physicians said they're worried their practice or clinic is going to be forced to permanently close because of the pandemic," said Stremikis.

Allergy and Immunology specialist, Dr. Schuman Tam was not part of the survey, but has seen the financial impact this pandemic has had on both of his practices.

"Definitely the volume of patient has decrease close to 50% and that is not normal. We don't do any more elective procedures. Normally patients we see are essential. They need to be seen," said Dr. Tam.

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From the early days of the pandemic, Dr. Tam has been testing some his patients for COVID-19 in the patio of this Marin County practice to avoid potential exposure. He is confident both of practices will survive this storm and recently received federal aid.

"Medicare advance payment that I have to pay back at the end of the year. That's how the government helps that I need to sustain the practice," said Dr. Tam.

The incentive that is keeping many physicians open is their patients.

"It's my duty. I have to do that not only for my patients but all the physicians, we are working as a team. I think that as long as I'm working, I can reduce the load of patients at ER departments," said Dr. Tam.

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