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.

 

 

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