An Update from Steven "Flash" Gordon

An Update from Steven “Flash” Gordon

November 6, 2020 in Notes

I just read Jim Sherwood’s obit.  I enjoyed him so much.  So many memories of the Yale University Precision Marching Band.  I remember at one reunion, when he told me that he was defending Imelda Marcos, I took him to task for defending the guilty.  He pointed out that the worst person is entitled to a fair trial, and while he didn’t think he could get everyone off, he was intent on getting them the best deal.  Those words stuck with me and gave me a different view of the legal profession. But his obit inspired me to be a better correspondent.
It was good we had the last normal weekend together in Miami, the Saturday and Sunday before the WHO declared a pandemic.  We ate great food and had great conversation and saw some really interesting stuff.  We did so wholeheartedly, without the any idea of tsunami of disease about to strike.
Not long thereafter I started a review of pestilence literature and I started with The Masque of the Red Death.
For the first time in my career, I backed out on a commitment.  I had been scheduled to go back to a rural hospital in northern British Columbia.  My colleagues there, the nicest and most functional bunch of docs I’ve ever worked with, were very understanding, but my sense of duty left me feeling a bit shabby.
Then, fearful of dying from the virus and thus avoiding contact with sick people, I drew unemployment till I got on with a telehealth outfit.  I binge-worked the first week I could and since then have cut back to more reasonable hours.  I’m remotely caring for patients in 13 states from Alaska to Florida.  Remote medicine wastes little of the patient’s or doctor’s time.  I hope it remains part of the landscape.  Before the pandemic, a person would have to budget a half-day away from work for a doctor’s appointment.  The average American at that time had 3 of those appointments per year; multiply that by the labor force and you come up with a significant parasitic burden on the American economy.  Three-fourths of the stuff I take care of remotely did not need an in-person exam.  But to about 10% I say, “Go to the ER, go now, don’t pass GO, don’t collect $200.”
You can now purchase a digital otoscope for less than the price of a pediatrician’s visit.  Electronic stethoscopes cost about as much as a New York City office call, but we still lack software to bring the sound to the doctor’s ears.  Ultrasound technology will follow.
At least half my telehealth patients tell me their primary care doctor retired, got fired, moved, or changed jobs (some docs are going into real estate).  The history of capitalism shows that a crisis will drive out the marginally profitable competitors, and at the end of the pandemic, we’ll have have left behind the burnt-out physicians, the ones too close to retirement, and some really great docs who were really bad at business.  At the same time we have fewer docs, we’ll have less face-to-face medicine.  I don’t know how that will impact the insurance industry.
Working reasonable hours at home got me full enjoyment of my peach and cherry crops. I’ve been cycling most days; I even got an up-to-date Trek which rides a lot better than my 50-year-old Paramount.  Bethany and I are spending quality time together.  We went fishing a half-dozen times and did quite well.
I work in our walk-out basement.  I watch the wild turkeys and squirrels in the rare moments between patients.  I come upstairs for lunch with my wife.  But I don’t think I’m done with locum tenens, and I’ve started work on an Irish license.
Stay well, Bill,  and keep writing plays.  How’s this for an idea: a pandemic drama, written for characters in a zoom meeting?
[PHOTO: Greg Fullerton (DC), Fil Ferrigni (DC), Flash Gordon (MC)]


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