World-renowned Denver trauma surgeon stays home to avoid coronavirus


(Photo: Ferre’ Dollar/CNN)

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DENVER (KDVR) -- The world-renowned trauma surgeon for whom Denver Health’s trauma center was named says he was asked to stay home while the coronavirus continues to circulate.

“I think it would be irresponsible for me to really come in since I’m not really needed to engage in patient care,” said Dr. Ernest E. Moore, who goes by the name Gene. “But on the other hand, I think we need to be conscious of what burden we may be on the health system.”

Moore, 73, said on Monday his department decided it would not be appropriate for him to continue participating in patient care because he is in an age group that is at a higher risk for the virus.

“It’s very frustrating for every physician -- particularly for a surgeon – because we can’t do a lot by phone, as you know,” he told the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

Moore said he is still very busy helping with administrative decisions from home.  He said he is conducting research – on a national level -- into potential alternative treatments for people experiencing respiratory symptoms if the country reaches a crisis level.

“It’s all speculation, but at this point in this country I think our greatest fear is to exceed our capacity to provide mechanical ventilation to patients who have advanced COVID, and this might be a way to attenuate that burden,” he said.

Moore said he is also involved in a transfusion committee at the hospital, in anticipation of a blood shortage.

“With my experience in transfusion medicine in trauma, I have been a resource for them, and under constant discussion about what we should do, what options there are,” he said.

Moore’s wife, who practices internal medicine as a primary care physician, also stayed home Tuesday after coming in contact with a patient who had a fever and a cough.

“I’m waiting for my test results to come back and just self-isolating and trying to figure out this telemedicine,” said Dr. Sarah Moore, who is seeing patients via video.

“I think it’s overwhelming,” she said of the spreading illness. “We have to take it seriously and learn from the other countries that didn’t take it so seriously.”

Meanwhile, other doctors are starting to volunteer their medical services after the governor, last week, called upon retired physicians and those licensed in other states to help.

“There are risks of the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed, and … I thought, ‘Well, do they need more medical help?’” said Dr. Bill Shaw. Shaw said he still has a medical license but retired from occupational health in 2011.

“Having not had a hospital patient for quite some time, I’m not going to be of any use in the ICU, but there ought to be, I thought, other areas where someone with some knowledge might be of use,” he said.

Shaw, 74, said he contacted the Colorado Medical Society to inquire more about the possibility of volunteering or being involved should his help be needed.

He said he has also thought about his own safety.

“Any time you’re in contact with the public, you’re at risk. On the other hand, I’ve worked in situations where the environment is chemically toxic, so I’m familiar with working with personal protective equipment and am comfortable with that,” he said.

Shaw said he has several questions, especially since he does not currently carry liability insurance.

According to Jillian Sarmo, a spokesperson for Colorado’s Department of Regulatory Agencies, some of Shaw’s questions might be addressed in a “forthcoming communication that the Division of Professions and Occupations will be issuing to healthcare licensees” in the coming days.

“The Division has been working diligently to ensure all bases are covered, and we expect this to be released in the next 1 to 2 days,” she wrote in an email to the FOX31 Problem Solvers.

In the meantime, she pointed inquiring out-of-state doctors and nurses and those who have recently allowed their license to become inactive or expired to check out the already established guidance from her department. She also encouraged people to frequently check the DORA website for additional, evolving details.

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