When the COVID-19 pandemic first began to change all of our lives, no one knew what the future – either short or long-term – held for anyone. Notably when it came to elective plastic surgeries, many board certified surgeons wondered when they could get back to what they do best: plastic surgery. A lot of plastic surgeons thought it may be a long time before they got back to the operating room. And then, after they did, some wondered how much of a demand there would be.
Boy, were they surprised!
We all remember the questions that arose just a few months ago.
- Will hospitals have room for anything but critical COVID-19 patients?
- Are hospitals safe places for anything short of ICU-needed beds?
- What kind of job security do Americans face?
- When will life return to normal?
Before the pandemic screeched our ‘old’ normal to a halt, board certified plastic surgeons said their waiting rooms were filled, waiting lists for surgeries were filled for weeks, if not months and interest in non-invasive as well as surgical cases were humming along.
Then, the doors were locked…
“I think all of us were a little uncertain,” admits Bruce Van Natta, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon in Indianapolis, referring to the days immediately following the decision by many state health department officials to order the closure of medical offices not providing emergency care for Americans. “And then when we got back from the quarantine, we got back ready to do surgery and we wondered if we were going to have much to do.
“Particularly financially, I guess a lot of us were looking at this like we did when we went through the recession in ’08 and ’09 when everybody kind of hunkered down and didn’t feel like this was the time to be spending dollars on something elective. And they held back a little bit. And it wasn’t until the spring of 2010, when the floodgates opened up again.
“Most of us were anticipating a similar type of reaction this time,” Dr. Van Natta continues. “There were a lot of unknowns. Actually, there still are a lot of unknowns with the pandemic.”
Was the sky falling’?
“When the epidemic hit, we all thought the, ‘sky is falling’,” remembers Dustin Reid, MD, a colleague of Dr. Van Natta and board certified plastic surgeon located in Austin, TX. “But from a practice perspective, once we were back up and running, not only did we have a backlog of cases that we didn’t do before we were shut down in March, all of April and the beginning of May, the demand has really gone up.
“Not only for noninvasive things like Botox and fillers, but surgery as well. Counterintuitively, demand is up. You can look at it from different perspectives.”
Plenty of free time
“I guess patients feel they have the downtime. They’re at home. Now’s the time to do it,” Dr. Reid tells The Plastic Surgery Channel. “I suppose that’s the reason. We just had our busiest June and our busiest July in practice history.”
“In talking to colleagues around the country, everybody is crazy busy,” Dr. Van Natta agrees. “One colleague told me recently ‘I’ve never done so many mommy makeovers in my life!’ ”
“One thing is people aren’t spending any money; there’s no place they can go on vacations. So they may have some extra cash to do something for themselves.”
Home is now where work (and recovery) happens
“A lot of people are working from home,” Dr. Van Natta surmises. “And people think recovering and working from home can go hand in hand. And we suspect in many cases there’s a spouse who is also available to generally help out with whatever it may be. I don’t know if it’s any of those, or all of those reasons, or a combination of all of those things.”
The East Coast is no different
“I was very concerned about the economy,” says Mark D. Epstein, MD, a board certified plastic surgeon in Long Island. “I was sure people would be without funds to do procedures, but it’s been anything but!”
“Here in New York, we were the epicenter of badness,” Dr. Epstein tells The Plastic Surgery Channel. “But even before we were able to open up, we were getting zillions of calls from everyone for everything from injectables to surgeries. People who even weren’t our patients were calling. We waited until we were able to do them ethically and safely, and surprisingly the surgery consults have been exploding.”
“And it’s continuing to be that way.”
On the other hand…
“I have to admit I enjoyed the six weeks of quarantine,” admits Dr. Van Natta. “I got a LOT of honey do’s done.”