Opinion: Don’t let other health care issues slide during pandemic
As we’ve watched our state battle to reduce the toll of COVID-19 on Michigan residents, we’ve understood — and supported — the sense of caution that has kept people home rather than visiting their doctors or going to the hospital if they think they need medical help.
But as health care specialists trained as medical doctors, we also know the risks of getting medical attention too late. Strokes, heart attacks, diabetes and cancer don’t take a break just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic.
The danger of hospitals being overwhelmed by the need to treat COVID-19 patients required us to limit access this spring so patients could receive the treatment they needed and caregivers could get the personal protection equipment critical to protecting their health. But the situation today is much different.
The number of COVID-19 patients needing hospitalization in Michigan has dropped significantly and the supply of PPE and other necessary resources is better able to meet demand. Furthermore, our understanding and knowledge of how the virus spreads has expanded thanks to cutting-edge ongoing research at our institutions and other research universities and hospitals, enabling us to safely provide medical care for everyone.
The doctors affiliated with our three universities that make up Michigan’s University Research Corridor — Michigan State University, the University of Michigan and Wayne State University — along with our clinics and Michigan Medicine, UM’s medical center, are taking the steps to help their patients through telemedicine, where appropriate.
When an in-person visit, out-patient procedure or hospitalization is necessary, patients can count on doctor’s offices, surgical centers and hospitals taking extra precautions to disinfect and to keep non-COVID patients safe with appropriate measures to ensure social distancing and appropriate personal protection equipment to keep patients safe. The same is true where our medical residents, students and alumni are practicing around the state.
Michigan statistics show a rise in heart attacks outside the hospital and decreasing transportation of stroke patients to hospitals. Now is not the time to avoid getting assistance for your medical needs, especially if they’re life-threatening. It’s equally important not to ignore chronic diseases. Asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and diabetes can take a toll if not kept under control or alleviated with medications and diet. Having a doctor monitor your case and prescribe the correct prescriptions is one way to make sure you’re taking all the steps necessary to stay as healthy as possible. If you need cardiac catheterizations, cancer surgery and blood tests or CT scans to monitor serious chronic conditions, don’t delay getting them.
Likewise, if you’re not feeling well, don’t ignore it. Many diseases take advantage of our minds and bodies when we’re stressed, and these are stressful times. If you’re feeling depressed or you’ve been feeling run down or have any ongoing pain, you should reach out to a health care professional. Delaying detection and treatment when you have cancer can require much more intense treatment when it is discovered. Putting off getting treatment for depression or other mental health issues can lead to a downward spiral that’s more difficult to stop. If you’re suffering, you should reach out.
You also should keep up on your vaccinations. If you’re older and due to get shots for shingles or pneumonia, make sure you get those shots. If you’re the parent of children who are scheduled for vaccinations, try to keep to the schedule for when those shots are due. And don’t forget to get a flu shot!
Lastly, if you are concerned you may have COVID-19, talk to your doctor. If your symptoms worsen to the point where they can’t be treated at home, go to the hospital. People with the virus have died at home because they feared going to a hospital, in some cases because the disease caused deadly blood clots or organ failure. Your chances of surviving are greater if you seek appropriate medical care.
Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical officer, sent letters to Michigan health-care practitioners in early May providing them with guidance on infection control and encouraging them to reach out to patients with chronic diseases and/or who may need routine care such as immunizations. Our doctors and medical centers are following them and taking extra steps where needed to protect patients’ health. Our medical experts and facilities want to treat your illnesses and keep you healthy. Please don’t let fear keep you from giving them the chance.
Dr. Norman J. Beauchamp Jr. is executive vice president for health sciences at Michigan State University; Dr. Marschall S. Runge is executive vice president of medical affairs at the University of Michigan and CEO of Michigan Medicine; and Dr. Mark Schweitzer is dean of the School of Medicine and vice president of health affairs at Wayne State University. The three universities make up Michigan’s University Research Corridor.