Essential businesses, like doctor offices, are feeling the pinch of the coronavirus pandemic as they work to help patients through telemedicine and try to stay afloat financially.
Practices like Bent Tree Family Physicians in Frisco were hoping to get a boost from the Small Business Administration, but did not get a loan because the program ran out of money.
Many small businesses owners became upset when they learned that large, national chains received funding instead.
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"In reality, we’re the ones that keep the diabetes from the ER, we’re the ones that take care of you when you don’t know where else to go and when the country has a chance to take care of us. Instead, it chooses to keep jewelry stores and restaurants in place and let us go out of business. It feels like priorities are broken," said Dr. Guy Culpepper, president and CEO of Bent Tree Family Physicians.
Culpepper has had his practice for 33 years. He took to Facebook to express his frustration about not receiving a loan and announced he had to furlough 70 employees Monday.
"I have about a third, maybe 20% of my staff that have agreed to come in part time at minimum wage in order to keep going," Culpepper said.
He said he had enough money for two months, but the funds were starting to dry up, which is why he had to furlough his staff.
Even though they've been practicing telemedicine, it's not necessarily paying the bills. It's something he said he knew from the start when he implemented social distancing more than a month ago.
“When we started turning people away, we knew that our income is going to drop, I thought it was the right thing to do and it turns out it was, we’ve flattened the curve," Culpepper said.
His office has been on the front lines of COVID-19 and he said they even operated a drive-thru testing site when testing was initially limited.
"We were the ones out here testing for COVID, we didn't have proper equipment, but that didn’t stop us. I got goggles at Lowe's, I got raincoats and we started testing people. We started testing people in drive-thrus outside because we didn’t want to infect anyone inside," explained Culpepper
He said out of 250 patients tested, 40 tested positive and one person died from COVID-19.
"We had one patient die that we cared a great deal about from COVID," Culpepper said.
Bent Tree Family Physicians has 25,000 patients according to Culpepper and he said even though they've had a lot of people call in for telemedicine, the office is not reimbursed the same as if it were an in office visit.
"When you’re a practice like ours, that has a lot of infrastructure for that diverse care, then the amount you make in telemedicine is fractions," he said.
He still has to pay for rent, equipment, vaccines and other items that he typically uses in the office.
"We believed that the small business loans were in place was specifically for us that were essential workers," he said.
He took to Facebook to write about what his practice was going through and the frustration about learning of big businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program loans.
Culpepper said he's staying strong and has faith they'll get through this.
“We will get the loan, God will provide," Culpepper said.