The Texas Medical Association (TMA) on March 11 announced it has created a TMA COVID-19 Task Force to assist physicians in the state with treating and protecting patients.
As a first step, the TMA Board of Trustees and the task force convened a statewide tele-town hall phone meeting Tuesday evening to update thousands of primary care doctors from across the state.
The call was hosted by TMA Board of Trustees Chair E. Linda Villarreal, MD, and TMA President David C. Fleeger, MD. It featured reports from Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) Commissioner of Health John Hellerstedt, MD, and DSHS Infectious Disease Medical Officer Jennifer Shuford, MD. They highlighted epidemiological updates and evidence-based criteria to evaluate suspected COVID-19 patients, advising doctors how to set up their clinics for a possible community outbreak.
Villarreal said the call was a good first step to inform Texas physicians on how to protect their patients and the community. “Our goal is to help you be as prepared as possible for this serious public health threat,” Villarreal said.
The TMA COVID-19 Task Force is chaired by Wendy Chung, MD, chief epidemiologist at Dallas County Health and Human Services and chair of the TMA Council on Science and Public Health. Chung will lead the team of 12 front-line infectious disease and primary care physician experts who will stay informed of the latest epidemiological information regarding COVID-19 and advise fellow physicians across the state about developments. The idea is for this TMA blue-ribbon group to empower front-line physicians to have their practices ready to answer the call and help their community’s patients if cases develop in their hometown.
Fleeger said the task force will play a critical role in safeguarding the health of Texans.
“We as physicians have an ethical obligation to provide urgent medical care during emergencies such as this. Though it puts us at risk, there are precautions and measures we can take to protect ourselves and still take care of our patients effectively,” Fleeger said. “The ethical obligation also includes neither stigmatizing nor ostracizing anyone from receiving needed medical care – no matter their race, ethnicity, culture, or infection status.”
TMA also has established and continuously updates an online Coronavirus Resource Center for physicians.