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Patients urged not to delay medical care

by CHERYL SCHWEIZER
Staff Writer | April 29, 2020 11:20 PM

MOSES LAKE — The COVID-19 outbreak is having an impact on patients who don’t have the virus. Some people who need medical treatment are delaying that treatment due to concerns about the virus, according to local hospital officials.

Jan Sternberg, director of nursing at Samaritan Healthcare, said it’s a statewide phenomenon.

“Patients we are seeing seem to be sicker, because they are delaying their care,” Sternberg said. “Other (medical facilities) are seeing it as well.”

“We have seen that in some instances. And it’s concerning,” said Glenda Bishop, CEO of Quincy Valley Medical Center.

The pandemic has made some people think twice about going to the hospital or clinic.

Gov. Jay Inslee issued orders in late March limiting the services that medical facilities can provide. Hospitals are required to delay what state officials have classified as elective surgeries, and medical facilities cannot provide services that the state classifies as non-essential.

In addition, patients “are fearful,” in spite of precautions that are being taken or that they may not know about, Sternberg said.

Patients do have options, even if they don’t want to go to a medical facility.

“We do not want people to put off care,” Sternberg said.

Similarly, Bishop said, “Do not put off seeking care for medical needs.”

People who are feeling sick should contact their medical provider, Sternberg said, and not wait. Telehealth services — consulting with a medical provider remotely by phone or video — have been extended to primary care as part of the statewide response to the pandemic, and patients who need to consult a medical professional may be candidates for a telehealth visit. At Samaritan, clinic staff are contacting patients that fit the at-risk criteria.

But in cases of genuine emergency, patients should go to the emergency room. Samaritan and QVMC have taken precautions to minimize the risk for patients, Sternberg and Bishop said.

Quincy has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Grant County and had some of the earliest cases of COVID-19 in the county.

“We took early measures,” Bishop said.

The hospital is following the guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which include extensive monitoring of staff. Temperature checks are conducted twice daily for employees, and all employees are asked to wear masks. The hospital is undergoing frequent deep cleanings, and access has been limited to specific entrances.

Samaritan also has twice-daily testing and mask protocols for employees, Sternberg said. Patients coming into Samaritan are evaluated for respiratory illness, and if they show symptoms, they are separated from other patients.

“Everyone that comes in as a patient wears a mask,” Sternberg said. The ER waiting room has been reconfigured to meet the social distancing guidelines, but the ER staff is working to reduce waiting times and treat people as quickly as possible, she said.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columibabasinherald.com.