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Doctors seeing increase in liver disease amid pandemic

Since the pandemic shutdowns started last March, hospitals have seen an increase in patients...
Since the pandemic shutdowns started last March, hospitals have seen an increase in patients with liver disease.
Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 12:27 PM CST
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NEW YORK, NY. (KSNB) - Since the pandemic shutdowns started last March, hospitals have seen an increase in patients with liver disease by as much as 50 percent, that’s according to a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

In 2019, Dr. Borys Buniak of St. Joseph’s Health in Central New York said he had a handful of people on liver transplant lists.

“This last year a lot of them didn’t make it to the transplant list because a lot of them drink by themselves at home. I’ve had more liver deaths this year than I’ve had in my entire career,” Buniak said.

Across the board - he’s seen a significant increase in patients with liver disease because of alcohol-abuse.

“They don’t have an AA meeting to go to so they don’t have the social support. Most people want to be together for social assistance and there’s nobody there to help them.”

Dr. Buniak also blames isolation, anxiety, and unemployment.

“A lot of them are drinking and they don’t call the doctor, they don’t go to the hospital, they’re afraid of acquiring COVID so they all sit home and they drink.”

Dr. Zachery Shepherd is an Internal Medicine Doctor in Upstate New York and says when your liver swells, it doesn’t work well.

“Binge drinking is probably worse than a standard amount of daily drinking, so those times where you spike alcohol is probably one of the places that you’re doing a lot of damage,” said Shepherd.

Both doctors urge community members to get help and go to the hospital. “It is very concerning. There is one week where I lost one patient a day to alcoholism. I would just get a notification that they died at home,” said Buniak.

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