The COVID-19 pandemic may kill off a startling number of minorit- owned medical practices in the state of New Jersey. During a recent interview, New Jersey Medical Association President Damali Campbell-Oparaji said that 90% of the organization's members reported reductions in income. Campbell-Oparaji explained that this decrease is caused by "fewer patient visits, inadequate insurance compensation for telehealth visit and a lack of tech support." In addition to a decrease in income, some members reported that they had to cut employee's hours or ask others not to come in to work because their underlying conditions would put them at a heightened risk to contract the virus. Making matters worse, minority-owned medical practices have had issues obtaining loans that would allow them to financially stay afloat.
"Even during economic booms, Black-owned businesses have suffered persistent discrimination and underinvestment. Lenders are less likely to approve loans for them. So it’s no surprise that many Black-owned private practices are suffering," she said.
Dr. Campbell Oparaji fears that losing a bevy of minority-owned practices add to existing racial disparities in the healthcare system. She feels that losing a number of physicians of color would lead to greater mistrust between citizens and the medical community.
"Minority communities have historically had mistrust in the health care system rooted in prior experiences of institutional racism. However, they often do trust minority physicians and turn to them for care and medical information," she explained.
"The loss of minority-owned physician practices can make it more difficult for minority patients to access affordable, quality healthcare, and will likely widen health disparities."
As minority-owned practices continue to struggle across the Garden State, many are looking to obtain healthcare at a time when it is needed most. Dr. Natalie E. Roche followed-up by offering tips to communities of color as they navigate these unprecedented circumstances.
"Follow US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations such as wearing face masks, washing hands, using hand sanitizers, and cleaning surfaces with recommended cleaning products," she advised.
"Communities can also reduce the costs of needed items by buying in bulk and sharing. Communities can protect the elderly by offering to help with shopping and prescription pick up, and help those who are not tech-savvy by sharing information about COVID 19 testing sites, food donations, safer public transportation practices, rent assistance, and phone assistance."
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