Dr. Manny Alvarez: COVID-19 isn’t only medical problem needing treatment – Restore other health services

Manny Alvarez

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For several weeks, hospitals and medical practices around the nation have been out of reach for many patients for elective surgery, certain diagnostic tests and regular medical visits. This was necessary to minimize their exposure to the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19, as well as to utilize all the resources available in hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.

Many portions of hospitals were converted to COVID-19 units as well as intensive care units. Unfortunately, medicine is a continuum that never stops. As America begins opening up again, a significant priority should be to focus on the opening of hospitals for general admissions and individual solo medical practices.

Looking at the current landscape, solo practices are hurting. Some 42 percent have laid-off workers and we may lose 20 percent of small private medical practices. There is a genuine concern that the general medical population is inadvertently being hurt by the lack of general health services.

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What should you do if your surgery was canceled or postponed? The most important thing is to keep communicating with your surgeons. They are usually monitoring the conditions of all their patients and providing information through telemedicine or phone calls. If the condition goes from elective to needing urgent or emergency surgery, they will facilitate the operation in a timely manner.

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Can you go to your doctor’s office? The answer is yes. Many practices are still open. However, you should contact them since their routine schedule probably has changed.

Many practices will continue with safety measures to make sure that patients don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms before coming to the office. Facial masks need to be worn and there should be proper spacing between you and your physician during your visit.

It is important, however, that you should see your regular physician if your visit is necessary due to some medical problem.

Many medical societies are creating a roadmap for hospitals to resume elective surgery. Some of these guidelines include:

A sustained reduction in the rate of COVID-19 cases for at least 14 days before assuming elective surgical procedures.

The ability to provide hospitalization services in a normal capacity.

Having the appropriate number of intensive-care beds available in case of emergencies, along with appropriate medical and surgical supplies.

An appropriate staff ratio of physicians and nurses to handle general hospital services and create an environment of patient safety and staff safety.

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The reopening of the health care system is very important. We already know that a lack of access to health care leads to inadvertent complications.

One only has to think of how many cancer patients have been affected by changes in schedules, how many organ transplants have been delayed, and how all the effects of monitoring patients with diabetes, hypertension and cardiac disease could affect some of the long-term health problems that we hope to reduce year after year.

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Every hospital, every physician and nurse, and all who support the health care system are committed to getting back to their regular schedules and are dedicated to continuing to protect and save the lives of patients in this country.

I am very grateful that many politicians are pointing out that health care workers are heroes. I hope this continues after we get back to normal. Health care workers have always been heroes to me.

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