You should have your head (or body) examined

  • Thursday, June 24, 2021 8:56am
  • Opinion

Aheadline recently said 600,000 people have been killed by COVID-19.

Our fear is, though not directly, that the coronavirus has led to many other deaths — and will continue to.

Because of restrictions and fears caused by COVID, many people decided not to go to the doctor when they might otherwise. The longer the restrictions and fear lasted, the longer people put off getting important checkups and procedures.

The most worrisome is cancer patients. Many people who are finally going to the doctor now are finding out the cancer is much worse than if they had come in sooner and started receiving treatments.

For some, that delay could be fatal.

Dr. Gib Morrow, the Kitsap County health officer, says the problem can be seen in all areas of health care.

“Healthcare offices were relatively empty through much of the pandemic, as some patients missed visits for scheduled preventive care, elective procedures, prescription refills, dental and mental health care, and other general medical services,” he says in an email to the Bainbridge Island Review and North Kitsap Herald.

Many of the patients wanted to protect themselves from going out in the public and possibly getting COVID, which can cause long-term health problems along with death.

But delaying seeing a doctor also has risks.

“We know that many people are behind in their routine vaccinations and screening health services, increasing the potential for delayed diagnoses; identification of diseases at later, more dangerous stages; and worse outcomes,” Morrow’s email says.

People were so scared they weren’t even going to hospital emergency rooms when they otherwise might have. The CDC reported visits fell from 2.1 million to 1.2 million during one week in April comparing the last two years. An American Heart Association poll says one in four adults experiencing a heart attack or stroke would rather stay at home than risk getting the coronavirus.

A medical research company estimated 36,000 people with breast cancer and 19,000 with colorectal cancer delayed diagnoses due to COVID.

“Patients with untreated high blood pressure, heart and lung and kidney diseases are all likely to experience a slow deterioration. Missed mammograms, people keeping up with blood pressure control — there’s no question this will all cause problems,” Dr. Farzad Mostashari told the Los Angeles Times.

A study from John Hopkins University says unemployed people were more likely to skip receiving medical help. And many people lost their jobs during COVID or at least had their hours cut back. So they felt they couldn’t afford to see a doctor because they would have had to pay out of pocket. About 12 million people lost health coverage as a result.

The survey says improving health care affordability and reassuring people that they can safely seek care may be necessary. Morrow assures people they can safely see their doctors now.

When COVID hit, there also were temporary closures of medical practices, cancellation of elective procedures and a shift to many services to telehealth delivery.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says minorities were hit hardest. It recommends communities work to foster equity when it comes to access to information, testing and care.

The number of people not going to the doctor is huge — about four in 10 adults have delayed seeking care, statistics show.

The time to get back to seeing your doctor is now. Since many people have received their COVID vaccinations things are returning to normal. Just like the old normal, the new normal means getting medical care is a must.

“Now is the time to reconnect with your doctor and catch up on your healthcare needs. It is safe, available, and more important than ever,” Morrow’s email says.

So, before you become a statistic, make an appointment to see your doctor.

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