The Focus on COVID-19 Is Hurting Other Patients: Dr. Jeffrey A. Singer

A surgeon and policy analyst tallies up the steep costs of delaying and denying elective surgery and other care during the coronavirus pandemic.


Over the past few months, virtually all medical care in the country has been focused almost exclusively on treating the novel coronavirus. Fearing a surge of cases, authorities told patients to stay away from hospitals and doctor's offices unless they thought they had COVID-19 and many states banned non-emergency surgeries and diagnostic care.

The good news is that many places never experienced overload. The bad news is that many hospitals and medical systems are actually laying off doctors and nurses due to overall flagging demand.

Physician Jeffrey A. Singer tells Nick Gillespie that the understandable focus on coronavirus is hurting patients whose care for heart disease, cancer, and other ailments has been delayed or foregone. A surgeon and senior fellow at the Cato Institute, where he writes frequently on health care and drug policy issues, Singer also talks about how many medical regulations that have been temporarily suspended should never be reinstated and the ways in which telemedicine will likely flourish in the post-pandemic era.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Singer also notes that there has been a subtle but unmistakable change in the focus of public health since shelter-in-place orders were put in place. At first, he says, the idea was "flattening the curve," or slowing the rate of infection so medical providers were not overwhelmed by the number of cases. Now, he says, the discussion is about making sure no one gets infected, an unrealistic goal for a viral infection in the absence of a vaccine.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.