COVID-19 pandemic could force some physicians out of business

Some practices took steps early on to reduce impact

Medical professionals with private practices across Texas are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, as some could be forced out of business.

SAN ANTONIO – Medical professionals with private practices across Texas are feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic as some could be forced out of business.

It’s an ironic turn during a time when health care workers are being hailed as heroes, said Dr. Diana Fite, president of the Texas Medical Association (TMA).

“When you're thinking, 'This is a medical crisis,' you would almost think there would be more physician time needed. But the opposite happened,” Fite said.

A recent survey in which some 1,500 TMA members were able to select more than one response resulted in the following:

  • 68% of members said their hours were reduced
  • 62% said their salary was reduced
  • A small percentage said they had been furloughed or laid off
  • 11% of those who answered said they had no impact

The members’ revenue was also impacted, with the survey resulting in the following statistics:

  • 37% of members said their revenue decreased between 51% and 75%.
  • 26% of members said their revenue decreased between 76% and 100%.

Dr. Leah Jacobson, with Through the Years Pediatrics, said her office took precautions early on to sustain the hit. She said hours and staff members were reduced early on when the pandemic began. They started feeling the impact shortly after spring break, she said.

“I think there will be a lot of the small businesses and practices that don't make it back, and that's gonna be at a detriment for the health care of our area,” Jacobson said.

She said she was only working two days a week, and now she’s up to three.

Small business loans are available to practices to help them through this time, but Jacobson said many clinics have also taken extra precautions, which add more costs to their bottom lines.

“You know, (we are) having to have the (personal protective equipment) and do a lot of different changes to the office at an additional expense for the safety of our patients,” Jacobson said. “And we want to do that. We want them to be safe, and we want them to feel comfortable because we are their medical home. We want them to know that we will be there for them and hope that they will feel comfortable coming in.”

Jacobson said she's glad business is picking back up, but she wonders if small practices can survive another wave of COVID-19 infections in the future.

“Especially for, like, pediatricians, winter is our busy season, so it’s going to have to be handled a little bit differently than what we’re used to,” Jacobson said. "We’re just assuming everything’s a cold or flu. We’re going to have this nasty virus always in the back of our mind that we’re going to have to deal with.”

About the Authors:

Patty Santos joined the KSAT 12 News team in July 2017. She has a proven track record of reporting on hard-hitting news that affects the community.

Before starting KSAT in 2017, Lee was a photojournalist at KENS 5, where he won a Lone Star Emmy in 2014 for Best Weather Segment. In 2009 and 2010 Lee garnered first-place awards with the Texas Association of Broadcasters for Best Investigative Series in College Station, as well as winning first place for Staff Photojournalism in 2011 at KBTX.