CROWN HEIGHTS – Dr. Lucy Pontrelli, 55, has been a doctor for 25 years. Currently, she works in private practice. Though she may not be helping fight the coronavirus battle from an emergency room, the work she does is ever so important.
Pontrelli had wanted to be a doctor for as long as she could remember. She always wanted to help people. She practiced Pediatric Infectious Disease for 15 years, before going into private practice. About a year and a half ago, she started working in a practice on Eastern Parkway and Albany Avenue in Crown Heights.
“Given the limitations of the system even before Coronavirus, I often gave out my cell number to the parents of the children who were very sick so I could follow them closely,” Pontrelli told Bklyner. “I understand how stressful it is for parents with a very sick kid.”
Currently, she and her staff and practicing telemedicine. The office consists of four doctors, two nurse practitioners, three medical assistants, and one front desk person. Since the coronavirus outbreak, they are not all in the office at the same time. Pontrelli, though, is there regularly. It’s where she telecommunicates with her patients and sees newborns in person. She also determines which patients need to be seen in person based on their symptoms.
“Also, we need to see emergencies to avoid sending to the hospital,” she said. “I already speak to many patients on a daily basis but I would love to advise many more. It’s very confusing and I’m sure hotlines are overwhelmed.”
A few weeks ago, Pontrelli got sick, as did some of her staff. They showed coronavirus symptoms but did not get tested. It was likely the coronavirus, she said, so they stayed at home for two weeks.
Healthcare workers are heroes every day, but even more so during these past few weeks amid the coronavirus. Pontrelli says she doesn’t feel like a hero. Rather, she’s just doing her job.
“Patients have to be taken care of; inpatient and outpatient. It’s not a job, it’s a profession. We all took an oath to serve our patients and care for them,” she said. “I feel for my colleagues since they have exposure to severely ill patients who potentially transmit a larger viral dose. This is especially risky if they do not have the proper protection.”
As of now, her office has enough masks to keep them safe and covered; especially since they aren’t physically seeing as many patients now. Pontrelli believes that outpatient doctors, such as herself, are seeing the majority of COVID-19 cases either in person or by telemedicine. She believes this represents the 80% of the coronavirus cases as opposed to the 20% that require hospitalization. Therefore, “We, outpatient doctors, need to pay attention to learn about the mild to moderate spectrum of the virus,” she said.
“This virus is widespread in NYC, especially Brooklyn. Most likely any infectious symptoms that people are experiencing, are due to Coronavirus rather than any other virus or bacteria, especially if associated with loss of taste and/or smell,” she said. “This gives me a sense of hope that many people in NYC are becoming immune and perhaps the curve will flatten sooner rather than later.”
“If the virus continues to rage, outpatient medicine will have to manage more borderline medical cases that would ordinarily be sent to the Emergency Room. We will have to rely on our clinical skills and avoid imaging like x-rays and sonograms to avoid spread,” she said. “As more routine medicine is used for COVID 19, we will have to come up with alternative treatments. For example, asthma medicine is being prescribed more and more for COVID. ”
“It’s time for doctors and providers to think out of the box. We need to be the MacGyver’s of medicine. No matter what happens, the healthcare system will never be the same again! In some ways for the better! We will need to understand and practice more preventive medicine and wellness.”