Piggott Community Hospital Feeling Negative Impact From Virus
As the number of cases of the COVID-19 virus climb and fall, healthcare professionals are noting an alarming trend among those not directly affected by the pandemic. Those who are marginally healthy, but maintaining a health issue, have been avoiding care givers to the point of having problems—or becoming more vulnerable due to a weakened immune system. It has prompted those in the healthcare profession to remind the public that hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices are safe to visit.
Last week Dr. J.T. DeWitt, chief medical officer at Piggott Community Hospital, talked about the matter and offered some assurances concerning local operations.
“We're trying to encourage people to remember how very important it is for them to maintain any chronic health problems they've got, and any medications they might be taking,” he offered. “A lot of people have been avoiding their primary care providers just because they're scared of coming contact with someone who has the COVID-19, which is understandable.”
Dr. DeWitt pointed to good practices in social distancing in keeping the state's number fairly low compared to others, and reaffirmed the importance of helping the body fight the virus.
“But, we've really been encouraging everyone to make sure they're taking care of themselves,” he added. “Because, people who have comorbidities like diabetes and high blood pressure, they're more at risk for contracting the virus.”
The concern is at both the local and state level, and within the insurance industry. “And, Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Arkansas Hospital Association have encouraged people to start to going back to their primary care providers,” Dr. DeWitt offered.
The sentiment was echoed by Arkansas Department of Health Director Dr. Nate Smith during Monday afternoon's daily COVID-19 update, as he stood behind the safety of the state's hospitals, clinics and doctor's offices.
On the local front, PCH and its clinics are making extra allowances for patients.
“To help we're making some extra services available to them. They can call-in when they visit their primary care physician at one of our clinics, or their specialist, and then wait in their car and can be brought straight in and avoid spending time in the waiting room,” he added. “We're also making sure that every patient that comes through our waiting room is safe, by extensive cleaning. It's to the point we're doing what's called terminal cleaning in the evening after the clinic closes to insure that we're keeping the environment safe.”
Great strides have also been made to allow proper social distancing in the waiting rooms.
Dr. DeWitt also pointed to the use of technology. “We're also doing a lot more telemedicine now,” he added. “We can have a patient contact our clinic and we can set up a call, or make arrangements where they can get in touch with their physicians to make sure they are taken care of and getting the medications that they need.”
In the continuing effort to maintain the spread of the virus, precautions will still be in place for those visiting PCH.
“We're still checking temperatures when they come in the door and making sure everyone has a mask,” he added. “We still have the no visitor policy here, but we're also making the environment as safe as we can so the public can come in and seek attention for any medical problems.”
Most experts feel the issue is one of misunderstanding, due to the stringent rules observed.
“I think that's one of the greatest misconceptions, that you're going to be at a greater risk here,” Dr. DeWitt offered. “We're taking far more precautions here than you would have going into any other public settings--such as going to a grocery store.”
Seemingly, the state of alert leads some to believe the risk is high.
“We're making sure when people come in, and even our own employees, to insure they're not showing symptoms of having the virus,” he added. “And, if anyone were to come in with symptoms we'd take immediate action to get them into a situation where they aren't exposing other people.”
Sadly, as people have put-off seeking proper care out of fear it has had an unwanted result. “In fact, we have seen an increase in our ER numbers compared to what they were just two weeks ago,” DeWitt added.
Currently, officials are encouraging all those who have symptoms, or who have been in direct contact with a positive case, to be tested. “Anyone that comes in and wants to be tested we direct them to our Rector clinic,” Dr. DeWitt added. “Even if they're not showing symptoms. Those who have been in direct contact, or showing signs and symptoms, are tested and treated only at the hospital.”
In light of states reopening their economies, and preparing for the summer months, Dr. DeWitt notes that one of the best ways to avoid infection is simple, “even the CDC says you need to be taking care of yourself,” he concludes. “Taking care of any medical conditions that you might have—which will insure your immune system is up to fighting strength in case you do come in contact with it.”
As of Tuesday morning, there were 4,813 confirmed cases in Arkansas, resulting in 100 deaths.