Time to care for non-COVID patients as pandemic lessens: NY doctors

A state group representing New York physicians is urging people to go to doctors’ offices for crucial medical care amid the pandemic — while a major health provider e-mailed its patients with the same message, too.

“Please do not risk your health by delaying care,” NYU Langone Hospital wrote in a recent e-mail to its patients, emphasizing that its doctors are available for “essential” in-person appointments, testing and surgeries in “thoroughly cleaned and sanitized’’ locations.

The Medical Society of the State of New York, an industry group for doctors, noted that physicians’ offices and hospitals have seen “massive drops in patient visits” that would have been unrelated to COVID-19 — and issued safety guidelines for members to boost public confidence in them as the contagion appears to be on the wane.

The group insisted that “with proper safety precautions, a doctor’s office is one of the safest places for a patient. Reopening physician offices is an important step for New York state.

“MSSNY recommends that all practices and facilities adopt comprehensive safety protocols including managing patient flow, limiting visitation, checking temperatures, remote check-in, etc,” it said.

The coronavirus pandemic has all but shut down many medical practices, as people are wary of going to doctors’ offices and hospitals for fear of getting the contagion. The state Health Department also ordered hospitals to postpone elective surgeries and instead devote resources to care for a massive wave of infected and often very sick coronavirus patients admitted to their facilities.

“The pandemic caused many other parts of the healthcare system to be idled in order to preserve resources and capacity in the system and limit opportunity for transmission or exposure to the virus,” the Medical Society said.

“Physician practices and healthcare facilities have seen massive drops in patient visits, caused by a combination of shelter in place orders and patient fear. This may lead to much more complex problems in the future, as patients miss routine screenings and preventative care.”

The Post reported last month that the number of patients refusing medical aid from city EMS ambulance crews skyrocketed during the pandemic, because of fear of going to hospitals filled with COVID-19 patients.

The reopening of the healthcare system for non-COVID services will require a public-education campaign to persuade worried patients that it’s OK to see the doctor in the office or in another “healthcare setting,” the doctors’ group said. The re-openings will vary by location and depend on the severity of the virus in different regions of the state, the group added.

There were 280 deaths caused by COVID-19 on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo reported during his press briefing Sunday. That’s down from a daily peak of 799 on April 8.

NYU Langone hospital told patients its safe to seek care.

“It’s understandable that there might be concern about coming to a doctor’s office or a hospital right now. Rest assured that we have put in place strict safety procedures to protect our patients,” NYU Langone said in its e-letter to patients.

The medical provider said it has put in place infection control procedures to protect non-COVID patients during the pandemic.

The note to patients said all NYU Langone staff have been tested for COVID-19 and wear masks and other protective equipment. All patients are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before arriving for their visit, it added, and all staff and patients are screened for COVID-19 symptoms at the entrance of its practices and given a temperature check with a “no-touch” thermometer.

All patients are also required to wear a mask, and social-distancing measures “will be enforced” in waiting areas, NYU Langone said

“All of our sites are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized throughout the day,” patients were told.

The hospital stressed that it set up “strict procedures” for surgeries and that the operating room “is still the safest place to have a baby.”

Mothers who had routine deliveries are discharged within 24 hours, the letter said.

NYU Langone also stressed that it separates COVID from non-COVID patients at its four emergency rooms in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Long Island.  The ERs all have “separate areas for patients coming in with COVID-19 symptoms,” the letter said.

The hospital system said “video visits” are still an option for patients who do not need urgent care.

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