Rising COVID-19 infections and subsequent delayed GI procedures are worrying gastroenterologists and GI executives.
Four GI leaders spoke with Becker's on what's worrying them the most:
Joe Feuerstein, MD. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston): The biggest challenge facing the field of GI remains COVID-19. The recent surge again in COVID-19 has directly impacted GI clinical practice. Some endoscopy centers have gone back to testing patients prior to endoscopic procedures, limiting ability to fill last-minute cancellations. Others have seen increased patient cancellations surrounding concerns of COVID-19 and risks of exposure. GI as a field needs to continue reassuring patients that the endoscopy suites have been a safe area throughout the pandemic without much reported COVID-19 transmission from the endoscopy unit.
Jim Leavitt, MD. Gastro Health (Miami): Clearly, it’s COVID-19. If we can’t control the infection, then I fear that we will increase the risk of the emergence of a variant even more infectious than the delta variant. Or, even worse, one that winds up rendering our current vaccines ineffective. Then, we could see a terrible increase in COVID-19 cases and wind up with a shutdown again.
Jason Richardson. CEO of Gastroenterology of the Rockies (Boulder, Colo.): Top of the list of concerns for the next six months will be how we (from a public health perspective) manage the spread of the delta variant and how this will impact local hospital bed capacity. Expanding on this will be the question of how the delta variant impacts the community's willingness to continue elective procedures/preventive health services. We need to move past the political polarization regarding fundamental management tactics that limit the spread of the virus — from masks to vaccines. This will be more critical as we head toward the fall and winter months.
Kenneth K. Wang, MD. Director of Mayo Clinic's Advanced Endoscopy Group and Esophageal Neoplasia Clinic (Rochester, Minn.): The lambda variant of COVID-19 exploding and causing reduction/cancellation of elective procedures is a major issue. There's already a lot of evidence regarding the harms of cancellation of screening and surveillance procedures from the initial pandemic. Along with this is the expiration of regulatory exemptions regarding telemedicine, which further would be complicating this current surge.