With the attention of the world keenly focused on COVID-19, it is only natural that other issues have fallen to the wayside. For those patients seeking medical care for non-COVID conditions, this can pose a serious problem.
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to some former patients of mine who told me that they did not want to pick up their prescriptions at their pharmacy for fear of being infected with COVID-19. Another former patient was no longer concerned about his other serious medical conditions; his only concern was COVID-19. Uncertainty and often-conflicting information have raised anxiety levels amongst many who are now ignoring other health issues they may have.
Some patients are even making life-threatening decisions, against the advice of their physician, all in the name of “staying safe from COVID.” A cardiologist colleague of mine shared a story of a patient who recently called after hours complaining of chest pain. The cardiologist informed the patient to go to the emergency room for a workup to rule out myocardial infarction. However, the patient refused after expressing fears of being infected with COVID-19 in the ER and ignoring the pleas of the cardiologist to take the matter seriously. Tragically the patient died that same night.
We are seeing an increasing number of stories regarding the neglect of other medical conditions, and I fear we will only see more.
In an article published by The Guardian, a woman explained that her husband was denied palliative chemotherapy when recently diagnosed with terminal cancer. Another article published by bloomberg.com notes that “with the Covid-19 pandemic demanding an unprecedented amount of medical resources and personnel, care for other conditions, even life-threatening ones, is being put on hold”. Lastly, in an article published by the dailywire.com, they note that dozens have died as a result of delayed care regarding heart surgeries.
COVID-19 has led to an unprecedented course of action. While there is no denying the seriousness of COVID-19 and the danger the virus poses to the world, it is imperative that other medical conditions are not ignored, especially those that are life-threatening. Although we are seeing a shift to telemedicine and at-home visits, this cannot be a substitute for care that requires more, and patients should be encouraged to seek proper care when necessary.