Amy Roberts feels safer at work than she does at the grocery store, and her workplace is doing what it can to help others feel the same way. Roberts, a clinical social worker at Robert Boissoneault Oncology Institute, and health care providers encourage residents to see medical settings as safe places to go for care rather than places to avoid. Not only has UF Health The Villages Hospital had extra precautions in place since March, the facility is treating 13 COVID-19-positive patients as of Friday morning, compared to 43 at its peak in July, according to hospital data. Visiting the ER when necessary, going to wellness visits and getting preventative screenings remain essential — even as the coronavirus lingers
HEALTH CARE PERSONNEL WORK TO PROTECT PATIENTS
Jeremy Spry, medical director of the emergency department at UF Health The Villages Hospital, said precautions taken at the hospital include everyone wearing a mask at all times, temperature checks, allowing one visitor per patient, screening admitted patients for COVID and keeping people with COVID-like symptoms sectioned off from the rest of the department. Roberts said in addition to requiring masks, temperature checks and exposure questionnaires, RBOI is almost constantly being sanitized. “We want to protect each other and our patients. I’m sure that’s true with all health care facilities,” she said.
PROVIDERS COULD FIND A DIAGNOSIS EARLIER
Patients who delay getting care could have worse outcomes than if they sought care sooner, Spry said. Those experiencing chest pains, shortness of breath or signs of a stroke should get emergency care. “The hospital is very safe,” Spry said. “But we are still seeing people with more advanced cardiac or infectious conditions who are coming in later than they should have.” Providers have similar worries when it comes to patients delaying screenings such as mammograms and colonoscopies. “If people delay screening, this could lead to finding more later-stage cancers in the future,” Roberts said.
PATIENTS COULD IMPROVE QUALITY OF LIFE
If a provider catches an illness early, the patient may require less invasive treatment. “People have the mindset of, ‘If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.’ But sometimes with cancer, you feel good and don’t realize you have it yet,” Roberts said. Wellness visits also ensure patients continue to make good lifestyle choices. “Wellness visits are very important even when someone feels fine because it can stop health problems before they occur,” said Netrali Patel, physician of Geriatrics/Family Medicine with The Villages Health. “(The visit) focuses on prevention, screening, immunizations, healthy lifestyle choices and physical exams.”