Navigating health care and “clinics” in the time of pandemic

Note: since I live in the United States, this post is more applicable to our health care system.

During this difficult time, a lot of businesses are being asked or ordered to shut down, and some — understandably fearing financial ruin — are coming up with creative ways to claim they are “essential businesses”. One especially egregious tactic I recently discovered is businesses claiming to be “health clinics”.

What can we do to keep ourselves safe and avoid “health clinics” that might put us and others at risk? Even more importantly, how do we make difficult health care decisions during this time?

Here’s what I’m asking before I venture into any hospital, doctor’s office, or “health clinic”:

1. Are they a legit health care facility? If so, they will be following CDC guidelines as briefly summed up here:

Public Health Reminder

Healthcare facilities and clinicians should prioritize urgent and emergency visits and procedures now and for the coming several weeks. The following actions can preserve staff, personal protective equipment, and patient care supplies; ensure staff and patient safety; and expand available hospital capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Delay all elective ambulatory provider visits
  • Reschedule elective and non-urgent admissions
  • Delay inpatient and outpatient elective surgical and procedural cases
  • Postpone routine dental and eyecare visits

2. Is this a life or death emergency? Would it be dangerous for me to move the injured or critically ill person? If so, I’m going to call 911.

3. Is time not of the essence? Am I unsure whether or not this warrants an ER visit? Then I’m calling the primary care physician for advice.

4. Is this ongoing treatment truly necessary? Unless told otherwise by their physician, no one should stop chemo, kidney dialysis, etc. Thankfully, neither my loved ones nor I need life-sustaining treatments at this point, nor are we fighting acute, life-threatening diseases. And the latter is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

5. If my health condition needs attention but is not an emergency or crisis, and I don’t require life-sustaining treatment, do I really need to risk myself and others by being seen in person? More and more doctors’ offices and legit health clinics are doing phone consultations or practicing telemedicine.

6. Will I be using time and resources better spent on those whose need for care is more crucial? I don’t want to be the cause of one less patient being seen or one less set of available protective gear unless I really, really need medical attention.

If the “health clinic” is legit, they won’t even want to see me for anything that is routine, elective, or non-urgent. But what if they aren’t following the CDC guidelines? I can only draw one of three conclusions:

  1. The people running that “health clinic” are woefully ignorant and have not even bothered to educate themselves about how to best protect their patients during this crisis. In that case, I have zero confidence in their ability to meet any of my health care needs, let alone protect me from disease or harm, and will not seek out their services now or in the future. 
  2. The people running the “health clinic” are familiar with the guidelines and educated enough to comprehend why they are necessary, but are callously choosing to ignore them, not caring who their actions put at risk. Frankly I cannot imagine anyone in the health care field being so despicable.
  3. They are actually another business entity only pretending to be a “health clinic” in order to stay open. Anyone willing to risk my community in such a deceptive way — and potentially not only my life and health but that of my loved ones — is someone I will avoid and encourage others to do the same.

 

Addendum, from the California Coronavirus (COVID-19) Response website:

Health care and helping sick relatives

What if I need to visit a health care provider?

If you are feeling sick with flu-like symptoms, please first call your doctor, a nurse hotline, or an urgent care center. 

If you need to go to the hospital, call ahead so they can prepare for your arrival. If you need to call 911, tell the 911 operator the exact symptoms you are experiencing so the ambulance provider can prepare to treat you safely.

What about routine, elective or non-urgent medical appointments?

Non-essential medical care like eye exams, teeth cleaning, and elective procedures must/should be cancelled or rescheduled. If possible, health care visits should be done remotely.

Contact your health care provider to see what services they are providing.

May I still go out to get my prescriptions?

Yes. You may leave their homes to obtain prescriptions or get cannabis from a licensed cannabis retailer.

Can I leave home to care for my elderly parents or friends who require assistance to care for themselves? Or a friend or family member who has disabilities?

Yes. Be sure that you protect them and yourself by following social distancing guidelines such as washing hands before and after, using hand sanitizer, maintaining at least six feet of distance when possible, and coughing or sneezing into your elbow or a tissue and then washing your hands. If you have early signs of a cold, please stay away from your older loved ones.

Can I visit loved ones in the hospital, nursing home, skilled nursing facility, or other residential care facility?

Generally no. There are limited exceptions, such as if you are going to the hospital with a minor who is under 18 or someone who is developmentally disabled and needs assistance. For most other situations, the order prohibits non-necessary visitation to these kinds of facilities except at the end-of-life. This is difficult, but necessary to protect hospital staff and other patients.

 

 

Some thoughts while “sheltering at home”

I was wrong.

At first, I thought measures being taken against the spread of the Coronavirus were extremist and bizarre. Then I reviewed some of what I’d learned in a long ago Public Health class about the history of virus diseases and virology. I read some articles being written now by leading epidemiologists, consulted the WHO and CDC websites, and examined some of the resources being compiled by trusted friends in the medical field.

That’s when I had to reconsider things.

I’m the caretaker for my elderly, frail parents. I need to be at their home at least 3 times daily, making sure they get their medications and food. Needless to say, they are not leaving the house. We even cancelled respite care for this week; I decided that a “day off” from my duties is an unnecessary luxury for me and risk for my parents.

I understand that for many, the very idea of staying home and not going to work or socializing is simply too awful to contemplate. I get it. I was already feeling stir crazy before the “shelter in place” order was issued for my county and then my state. No one says this will be easy.

But the rest of this is for my professing Christian readers…

This is the season of Lent. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, this might be a good time to find out. It’s a penitential time leading up to Easter. Many of us use this season to pull away from life’s distractions and addictions in order to focus more on Christ, and especially on the meaning of His Crucifixion. It makes Easter all the more glorious.

We “give up” for Lent in order to gain more of Jesus, in order to experience Him more fully.

Some of my friends, now confined to their homes, have commented that this is the greatest Lent ever, and they are fully embracing this opportunity.

This is not an easy time, by any stretch of the imagination, and I am in no way minimizing the suffering of those who are sick, those who have lost loved ones, those who are without income, those facing the the very real possibility of losing their homes, etc. I’m talking to those of us who, like me, are as of yet unscathed and still can’t figure out why our government is taking such extreme measures.

Use this season. Allow God to use it. Be willing to sacrifice. And please, please stay away from people as much as possible, no matter how people-starved we all might be right now. Let me get personal. You may think you just have allergies, or it’s just a cold, or you may even think you are the healthiest person on the planet. But unless I invite you into my life and home as a necessary presence, or as a family member needing to shelter here, this is not a time for in-person socializing. This is not a time to “drop by”. Please don’t disregard the orders you are under where you live, or the advice of those who know a lot more about pandemics and epidemiology than any of us ever will.

I have two dear parents who need me to be healthy. My husband is in that over-65 vulnerable group. I have asthma too (which, thank God, rarely troubles me these days) and pleurisy-scarred lungs, and I’m not exactly youthful. Pray for my parents. Pray for us. Pray for the many who are like me and like my parents. Pray for the many younger people who, thinking this disease posed no threat to them, are now suffering and even dying.

Use this season and any extra time you may have to seek God’s Presence as never before. Regard this as a spiritual retreat. May this Lent be a time of personal renewal for all of us. May it be a time of breakthrough.

Adapted from something I posted on Facebook earlier today.

My only comfort

Beautiful, powerful words that remind me of why I am still a Follower of Jesus. It’s all about redemption, and I’m still holding out for the final chapter of that beautiful story.

And when we forget the real curse that is on the world, we turn Christianity into a weird ethical system that is all about homeschooling, courtship, virginity, tattoos and earrings and power plays and making sure women “know their place” and we forget that it is about redemption.

— Read on myonlycomfort.com/2019/09/03/my-only-comfort/