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Don’t delay health care because of COVID-19, warns Atlanta physician

BY NANDINI SUNKIREDDY, MD*

We are living in a new world now. We have to adjust to the new normal as things are changing faster than we could have ever anticipated. In this new world of pandemic fear, everyone is asking themselves how this could affect me, who is going to be the next, and what should I expect in the coming months? Unfortunately, none of the experts have the answers to these pressing questions. Health care providers have been forced to adapt to the pandemic at lightning speed.

What we are seeing is that most people are apprehensive about coming to healthcare facilities. We have been seeing an increasing trend of patients trying to postpone their appointments. People with chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease are scared to go to their doctor’s offices, which could prove to be dangerous in the long run. Most of the healthcare facilities are trying to bridge the gap by doing virtual exams but labs are a very important part of medical decision making.

Around the country, an increasing number of patients are putting off seeking care for medical issues, waiting until they get critically ill. These patients are ending up in urgent care facilities, emergency rooms, and in some cases dying, when a simple visit early on could have saved them money, their health and even their life.

I had a patient with common UTI last week that waited for at least a week before coming into the office. By the time she came in, her infection had already gone to the kidneys. We had no choice but to admit her to the hospital for IV antibiotics. Another patient had asthma exacerbation which could be easily taken care of in the outpatient setting. Instead, he waited and his wife had to call 911 to rush him to the hospital. He had to be intubated and admitted in the ICU. In one extreme case, a patient with acute appendicitis waited for 24 hours to come to seek help.

We have also been seeing an increasing number of patients trying to postpone their yearly physicals until the pandemic gets over. The reality is that we should have to accept that it’s our new normal and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. It is vitally important to get physicals yearly as they are an important tool for early detection of cancer. More than 50% of cancer diagnoses are found during routine mammograms, colonoscopies, lung cancer screenings, and blood work.

Most of the healthcare facilities have been taking the utmost care to prevent the spread of COVID-19. All the patients and visitors are screened before entering facilities, patients with COVID-19 symptoms are isolated, exam rooms are disinfected after each patient encounter, and masks are worn by all patients, providers, and healthcare staff.  Care is taken to maintain social distancing in waiting rooms by reducing patient volumes, offering patients the option to wait in their cars until the appointment, and changing the arrangements of waiting rooms’ seating to increase spacing as people wait.

Life is at a pause now but your health care needs are not. Do not delay the needed care. Healthcare facilities are prepared to safely provide services and you should get the care you need when you need it.  

Health care delayed is always health care denied.

*Dr. Nandini Sunkireddy is a family medicine physician at Wellstar Primary Care in Roswell, GA. Tel:
7707401753

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