Pandemic pushes black doctors into bankruptcy in NJ
The pandemic is causing growing concern about the long-term impact on health disparities in minority communities in Garden State.
According to Dr. Damali Campbell-Oparaji, president of the New Jersey Medical Association and assistant professor at Rutgers University Medical School, many medical practices in minority communities have been forced to close in the past seven months.
According to Rutgers Medical School, there are fears that many black-owned doctor’s offices may ultimately be forced to close due to the pandemic, being among about 41% of black-owned businesses that will close.
Campbell-Oparaji said these offices are generally smaller, with limited budgets and staff, and when the pandemic began some were unable to quickly transition to a telehealth format.
“And then the patient’s ability to have these telehealth visits is also a factor,” she said. “If the doctor has it but the patient doesn’t, then it’s no good.”
She noted that many doctors have also reported inadequate insurance compensation for telehealth visits, making it more difficult to stay operational.
Doctors’ offices in communities of color may not have been able to secure the small business loans needed to stay afloat when the lockdown began.
“The first round of these loans was with some of the larger banks, with which many doctors’ offices did not have relationships with these banks,” she said.
Another problem has been that the workers in the medical offices themselves have contracted COVID-19 or that doctors have had to lay off staff for financial reasons.
“It’s not just about whether you have the disease; it is about your ability to manage the disease. It’s about your ability to get the medicine, which can be very expensive, ”she said.
Of the 14,300 fatal victims of COVID-19 in New Jersey, more than 18% were blacks, who make up 15% of the state’s total population.
Minority communities have historically been suspicious of the health care system due to past experiences of institutional racism. However, they often trust minority doctors and turn to them for medical care and information.
She also noted that going to another doctor can be a stumbling block because the patient may not have a car, and there may be resistance to seeing a new doctor because it means remember your medical history, your previous problems and hospitalizations and other facts that you doctor will have a detailed record of.
Campbell-Oparaji said that in the short term, it is important to seek innovative ways to support the practices of physicians in communities of color, including helping them acquire sufficient personal protective equipment.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at [email protected]