Commentary: Providence ER, clinics ready to serve patients

Those who have delayed care can be assured that medical facilities are safe and able to provide services.

By Kim Williams / For The Herald

I want to thank the people of Northwest Washington for their role in helping to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Without your sacrifices, I fully believe we would have faced more severe illness and death in our community. We who work in health care are so grateful for our community’s outpouring of support. One silver lining of the pandemic has been the way we have all pulled together and worked to take care of each other.

Many of you delayed non-emergent care while we were in the throes of the pandemic. That was the right thing to do, both to help us manage clinical resources and to minimize contact for everyone’s safety. With this, however, there is the concern that people in need will not seek timely medical care out of perceived risk of exposure, even now that it is safe.

In recent weeks, we at Providence are aware of patients who waited too long to seek care, with the delay potentially causing a subsequent hospitalization or more serious condition.

One patient comes to mind; he waited for weeks to come in for evaluation and now needs urgent surgery for an aggressive cancer. One physician saw two patients in the emergency department with neurologic complaints; both waited to come in because they thought we were overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, and both had real disease and were admitted. Another young person, who kept apologizing for taking up space in the Emergency Department, was found to have acute appendicitis.

I’m sharing these stories to emphasize the importance of getting needed care now. Please, if you have serious medical and potentially life-threatening symptoms, do not avoid care out of fear. If you need to catch up on preventative care or need treatment for any condition, call your provider and make an appointment.

As we continue to navigate the next phase of this pandemic, the safety of our patients, caregivers and physicians remains our first priority. Our hospitals, clinics and Emergency Department have taken aggressive measures to protect both patients and staff from exposure. Some of these safety precautions include:

• Screening all individuals who enter our hospitals, clinics and emergency department.

• Universal masking for anyone in our facilities.

• Rigorous cleaning of waiting rooms, exam rooms and equipment.

• Equipping physicians and caregivers with the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and materials required for the treatment of COVID-19 and other surgeries and procedures.

• Expanding COVID-19 testing capacity for patients and caregivers.

• Segmenting COVID-19 patients from non-COVID-19 patients to minimize risk of exposure.

• Limiting all but essential visitation to reduce the number of people in our facilities at any given time.

Now, with Gov. Jay Inslee’s permission to resume non-essential medical procedures, we are again welcoming patients who have put off important but non-urgent medical care. Some postponed surgeries and procedures will be rescheduled in coming weeks. (Urgent surgeries have continued throughout the pandemic, with strict precautions in place.)

In the Emergency Department, we are open and taking care of patients. If you have a health emergency, don’t delay or hesitate to come in.

At Providence Medical Group clinics, our clinics are open and taking care of patients. You also have the option to schedule telehealth appointments by video or phone with your provider if that is more convenient for you. To find out if a telehealth appointment is right for you, simply call your provider’s office to discuss your needs.

Again, I thank you for doing your part to flatten the COVID-19 curve and for supporting us. I wish you the best of health, and remember, we are here to provide you the highest-quality health care; before, during and long after the COVID pandemic is over.

Kim Williams is chief executive for Providence Health and Services for Northwest Washington.

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