Many Arkansans are delaying care because they fear going to their doctor’s clinic or the emergency room.
“We’ve seen some poor healthcare decisions and people are having heart attacks at home, strokes at home, just because people have a fear of going to the hospital because of COVID,” said Dr. Douglas Ross, chief medical officer at CHI St. Vincent.
But that shouldn’t be the case.
Ross, along with Dr. Eddie Phillips, chief medical officer at Baptist Health, joined Dr. Dean Kumpuris, medical director of Fifty for the Future, for a Facebook Live “lunch and learn” on Wednesday. Take Care Arkansas‘ first lunch and learn session addressed the safety measures hospitals and emergency rooms have implanted during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If a patient comes in with symptoms with COVID, we isolate all of those patients together,” Ross said. “If you were to come into the emergency department with a broken arm, you would be taken care of in a different wing of the emergency department than COVID patients.”
Phillips said some national reports state that more people are dying at home from heart attacks and strokes because they fear going to the emergency room. That’s what hospital administrators want to avoid in the future as COVID will remain a pandemic into the foreseeable future.
Ross and Phillips stressed that healthcare has never been safer because the current pandemic made hospitals and emergency rooms reassess safety protocols.
“Everyone in the hospital is masked, employees, all visitors, all physicians, all personnel at all times, including patients,” Phillips said. “We have screening procedures, temperature checks for all staff, nurses and physicians. We have an adequate supply of PPE (personal protection equipment) for our employees. We furnish a mask if someone doesn’t have a mask. We are in good shape with PPE.”
Healthcare system implements new procedures
The pandemic has forced the healthcare system to implement new procedures that are likely to remain after the coronavirus is contained.
“Even when COVID is long gone, healthcare is going to be forever different,” Ross said. “We have learned so much about hygiene, hand hygiene, not have people wait together.”
For example, because of COVID, patients now can only have one visitor. That is a change that is likely to be a permanent change, said Phillips.
“Limiting visitors could be the new norm, I suspect,” Phillips said. “I don’t think we will see eight to 10 visitors in a room anymore.”
Ross also said emergency rooms are likely to forever change, too. He said the days of crowded ERs will likely never return. Patients will remain socially distanced to prevent contagious infections – whether in a pandemic or not – from spreading from patients waiting for care in an ER.
Throughout Arkansas’ healthcare system, hospitals that normally compete with each other for business have come together during the pandemic to advise each other on best practices and to share information. If one hospital needs PPE, another hospital with an abundant supply will share.
“Ultimately, Arkansans are taking care of Arkansans,” Phillips said.