ASPS Fights for Residents During the Pandemic
ASPS recognizes the sacrifices that residents and fellows are making during this public health emergency and has been advocating on their behalf in Congress. Doctors in training have been forced to bear a particularly heavy load during the pandemic and are being asked to perform roles that are atypical to their traditional training.
One of the Society's top priorities has been ensuring that all physicians have access to personal protective equipment (PPE), first at the frontlines and now in plastic surgery practices. ASPS has urged the Administration and Congress to make immediate investments in the U.S. medical supply chain so health care workers have access to the necessary medical supplies to protect themselves. PlastyPAC Resident Ambassador, Benjamin Schultz, MD also represented the specialty at a Yale University virtual rally in April with other medical associations, which was instrumental in raising awareness about the PPE shortage with key congressional leaders.
In addition to fighting for residents' physical and mental health, ASPS has advocated for their financial well-being. The Society has been a leader in calling for hazard pay proposals to ensure that all frontline physicians – including medical residents and fellows – are retained and rewarded for the grueling hours spent at the frontlines. We have tremendous concern that health system employment models for residents and fellows could render them ineligible for this compensation should it be approved.
That's why ASPS sent letters to Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and House Democrats thanking them for recognizing the importance of this policy, through individual legislation and a comprehensive COVID-19 response package, respectively. The letters also offered policy recommendations to ensure that all frontline physicians are considered eligible essential workers, regardless of their training level and compensation model.
ASPS is also advocating for additional financial relief mechanisms, such as medical student loan debt forgiveness and the further delay of federal loan interest. We were pleased to see direct economic impact payments to individuals and American households as part of the CARES Act, which we pushed to see included in the initial relief packages with the understanding that our resident, fellow and early career members could benefit from them tremendously.
Finally, the COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated that the nation faces a severe physician shortage that will only worsen if Congress does not act now. ASPS has continued to push for the immediate passage of the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act to create additional residency positions for specialty care physicians. We hope that this public health emergency will prove the importance of investing in the future health care system to ensure that our nation's patient population has access to quality specialty care for the long-term.