By Jaime Collins, Director of Marketing and Communications |
We have it good here in southwest Wisconsin. Most of us continue to be spared the worst havoc COVID-19 can inflict on our lives. Area hospitals did not see the overwhelming number of cases we all prepared for.
Staying at home and cancelling non-essential healthcare visits and procedures proved to be the right thing to do. Yet, on the local and national healthcare radar screens is a growing concern that the restrictions we faced combined with the stark images the media overwhelmed us with daily are resulting in fear of healthcare. And that means far too many people continue to put off healthcare they very much need.
With so much to worry about as our state begins re-opening, there’s one thing that should cross all our minds: our personal health and wellbeing beyond COVID-19.
In just the past week our state has recorded three of highest daily totals of new cases of Coronavirus COVID-19. The number people hospitalized per day in Wisconsin for COVID-19 also spiked recently, and the past several days saw the highest numbers of hospitalizations in the past five weeks. But, that’s not the most concerning issue right now on the minds of most healthcare professionals. There’s a new danger. One that’s far more easily preventable: people are delaying needed healthcare.
Staying at home is the right thing to do to reduce our risk of exposure and to reduce our risk being spreaders of a virus we don’t know we have. But staying home is no longer appropriate when we have urgent healthcare needs. Especially when our symptoms point to a potential medical emergency.
Across the U.S. healthcare landscape, we know a great many people are putting off getting the care they need. Some assume incorrectly that we’re closed. Others may believe they risk taking an appointment another person needs more. Or even more frequently, they believe their hospital or clinic was overrun with the virus during the pandemic and is not a safe place to go.
Truth is, hospitals and clinics are experts at infection control, and they have highly trained staff who not only care for their patients but also care for their own safety and well-being. As a result, hospital and clinic facilities are the safest, cleanest places anyone can visit today.
Most of us don’t think twice about going to the supermarket or home improvement store, regardless of our individual penchant for mask wearing. Those are truly places we cannot currently take our safety for granted. On the other hand, hospitals and clinics adhere to stringent infection-prevention protocol.
At Southwest Health we’ve had a SAFE IN OUR CARE initiative in place since the pandemic’s first days. Let me recognize that our organization is one you can always count on for safe, effective, quality care. The pandemic didn’t change that. What changed was our approach and the total comprehensiveness of our infection control measures.
When the coronavirus raised its ugly head, our team went to work to plan for the pandemic and to ensure that our environment of care is 100% safe. Safe for patients and safe for healthcare workers. And they covered every base. From securing entirely separate spaces for care of respiratory and flu patients to safe scheduling practices to our safe check in procedures to lobbies and exam rooms and more, we went all out. For curious minds who want to know the detail, visit southwesthealth.org and look for the SAFE IN OUR CARE button on our COVID-19 page.
These high standards of safety are not something everyone is aware of, however. And that’s why when the Primary Care Collaborative just last week surveyed 750 primary care practitioners in 49 states and Washington, DC., they learned 38 percent of our nation’s primary care doctors believe the fall-out from COVID-19 will include serious repercussions for their patients’ health. Seventy-one percent predict their patients will pay less attention to their serious chronic illnesses and vital preventive care.
One study from Health Services Research and published by the National Institutes of Health found that veterans who visited a VA medical center facility and waited 31 days or more had significantly higher odds of death compared with veterans who waited fewer than 31 days. They concluded their findings support the largely assumed association between waiting for outpatient care and serious negative health outcomes, including mortality.
Other well-documented health consequences of stay-at-home orders include worsening mental health conditions, substance abuse problems, and domestic violence. That’s not to mention the widespread economic damage that impacts the health of communities everywhere, and we know economic issues play a real and major role in the health of our communities.
I have the privilege of knowing Southwest Health well. I am familiar with the extensive steps our team is taking to make this a safe environment, and I have trust in the experts around me. I also have the benefit of seeing it all first hand as I have personally been coming into the office every day throughout the pandemic (I recognize that is also a privilege). I could have worked from home but chose to come in because I feel more effective working onsite. And I feel safe here.
The way I see it is if we can go out for groceries, we can go out for healthcare. People are staying home out of fear. Unnecessary fear. Our friends and neighbors around the area are enduring symptoms of illness and disease, and they deserve proper evaluation and treatment from healthcare professionals.
The best thing any of us can do is call the hospital or clinic when we think we’re experiencing health issues. Our team is here and ready to do more for the people we serve. And those people I fear are suffering needlessly in many cases.
We have, indeed, taken a mountain of precautions to ensure everyone in our facilities is safe and cared for. Please don’t delay needed healthcare. Reach out and get the care you deserve.