CHEYENNE – While the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, and health care professionals are more important than ever, not everyone is seeking them out when they need them.
Throughout the nation, people aren’t seeking health care for their illnesses and ailments. Emergency room visitations are down, and doctors are seeing patients come in after delayed care made their conditions worse.
This also is happening here in Cheyenne.
Dr. Patty Zishka, an urgent care physician with a public health background at HealthReach, said it’s been documented that a lot of people are putting off care that could be life threatening, or an inconvenience that is causing them more pain.
Zishka said she’s worried about people who are diabetic who aren’t getting their medication, and those who have heart disease and are delaying care.
She added the truckers who come through Cheyenne on Interstate 25 and I-80 frequent the HealthReach clinic, and other clinics in town, and she said they’re at risk of having problems if they don’t get their health care problems managed.
“So I think it’s just like anything – if you have an old car that you drive into the ground and you never do any maintenance, it’s gonna kick the bucket sooner,” she said.
Zishka said if someone has a sprained ankle and they’re not sure if it’s broken, it’s not as big a deal as someone who’s having difficulty breathing. She said breathing problems, chest pain and blood sugar maintenance are the types of problems that can get people into trouble if they delay care.
She said she spoke with a colleague Tuesday morning who works in orthopedics, and they said their patient volume is down about 50% from normal. She said in that setting, it may not be as big a deal as people who need to be seen on a routine basis and aren’t because they’re afraid.
Kim Deti, spokeswoman for the Wyoming Department of Health, said it’s important for those who need care to seek it during this time. She said fear of COVID-19 shouldn’t stop people from seeking health care; doctors have telehealth options, and there are ways to get care safely.
Cheyenne Regional Medical Center also is offering telehealth emergency department visits for those with COVID-19 symptoms or non-life threatening conditions, Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Jessica Hughes said.
Hughes said the ER is still seeing a 50% to 60% reduction in patients, and across the board people just don’t want to come to the ER right now. She said CRMC added the telehealth option to target people who need to seek ER care for non-life threatening ailments but are afraid to because of the virus.
But people shouldn’t be afraid of coming to the ER, and it’s safe to do so, Hughes said. People with COVID-19 symptoms and/or those confirmed to have the virus are being separated from people who come to the hospital for other reasons. Hospital staff who work with COVID-19 patients also aren’t seeing non-COVID-19 patients.
Zishka said she thinks most health care facilities are screening people for COVID-19 and offering telemedicine during this time. She also said it’s OK to ask health care providers about what they’re doing to keep their patients safe and what their screening procedures are for COVID-19.
“I don’t think they should be afraid. I think that people need to realize that there’s the fear that keeps a lot of people away that can actually be more damaging than just being cautious,” Zishka said.