Primary care physicians, dentists working hard to keep patients safe
We heard last week from Dr. Ben Raimer, interim president of UTMB, about the important work being done by our nationally recognized academic institution, and we can afford to feel optimistic that the best and brightest among us are laser focused on finding ways to treat and prevent COVID-19.
Behind the scenes, our Galveston County Health District staff of experienced epidemiologists are working day and night to track and manage people who have been exposed to the virus to help limit the spread among unsuspecting individuals.
Now let’s talk about how we, your primary care workforce, can contribute to keeping you safe.
To the 17,700 patients who call Coastal Health & Wellness (CHW) your primary medical home, we want to assure you we’re all in this together. For those of you who are not our patients, we have every confidence your healthcare organization has a plan very similar to ours.
During a crisis, it’s easy to focus on the health threat directly in front of us and set aside our other health problems, but this is exactly what we shouldn’t do. Communicating regularly with your primary care provider and taking your medications exactly as directed is the best way to keep yourself healthy enough to weather any health threat, including COVID-19.
Currently, face-to-face visits are being restricted to problems that cannot be handled any other way:
- Health visits for chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure will be done by talking directly to your provider over the phone. We’ll ask how you’re feeling, review and refill your medications, address other concerns and schedule the next visit.
- Evaluations for acute problems, whether it’s a cough with a concern for COVID-19 or a sprained ankle or abdominal pain, will start with a call to you from an experienced healthcare provider. If we believe we need to see you in person we can do so and we’ll make sure this is done in the safest manner possible.
Some important DOs and DON’Ts:
- DO call us if you have any health concern at all, but DON’T walk in to either of our clinics unless we explicitly tell you to do so. We have significantly increased our team of staff members answering phones and you will either
be helped immediately or receive a call back very soon. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much it helps to
talk with a knowledgeable professional who will take the time to understand your concerns and offer guidance and support including, if necessary, medications.
- DO call us if you need a refill of your routine medications and don’t get an immediate response from the pharmacy. During usual times we ask that you manage refills through your pharmacist, but these are not usual times. Pharmacists are working diligently to manage everyone in our community, so taking the load off them by calling us will help all of us.
- DO call us if you’re feeling stressed, having trouble sleeping or being plagued by worrisome thoughts. Even people who don’t usually have anxiety can feel anxious during uncertain times. We have behavioral health therapists and healthcare providers ready and willing to help you find ways to manage your stress.
- DO call us if you typically use injectable contraception like Depo Provera and are coming due for your shot. We will absolutely see you for this once we screen you by telephone.
- DO call us if you have a dental concern. Our experienced dentists can handle many of your acute dental problems.DO NOT use emergency medical services unless it is a true dental emergency. If you’re unsure, call us. Using emergency services for non-emergencies risks the lives of people who have true emergencies like heart attacks, strokes or serious trauma.
- DO watch for a return phone call from us when we tell you we’ll call back. Addressing your needs will be much quicker if you answer our return call on the first attempt.
Some final comments about social distancing, the surreal concept that has landed with a thud into our well-established social norms.
It can be hard to understand why we’re being asked to avoid the things we love like dining out, hanging at the local bar and playing on the beach. This virus is brand new to humans so even the healthiest among us have yet to develop immunity against it. Right now, although the elderly and people with chronic medical conditions are always at higher risk of doing worse when getting infections of any kind, we don’t know who will be more susceptible to catching this and dying from it than others.
Scoffing at guidelines for social distancing is like playing Russian Roulette, but unlike Russian Roulette you could dodge the bullet of death yourself, yet it will strike someone else who could die, all because you played a deadly game. Do your part to keep the spread of COVID-19 as low as possible.
Here’s what will be amazing: Someday we’ll look back and know we did absolutely everything possible to keep our families, our neighbors and our community out of harm’s way, and it worked! Together, let’s make it happen.
Cynthia Ripsin, MS, MPH, MD
Coastal Health & Wellness Medical Director
Hanna Lindskog, DDS
Coastal Health & Wellness Dental Director