Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the general population has grown more anxious about contracting the virus. This anxiety can lead to potentially grave consequences, as some patients needing care from UW Medicine have been deferring, delaying, or not taking treatment at all for problems not related to the novel coronavirus.
Dr. Scott Biggins, UW Medicine’s chief of hepatology, said he’s noticed the patient population in the Seattle-area is particularly anxious, possibly due to living in an area with one of the first coronavirus outbreaks in the country.
“Despite that, sometimes hospitals and clinics are actually one of the safer parts to be, because we’re adequately masking patients and doing screening and really working hard to keep it as a safe place,” Biggins said.
Even so, the fear of getting COVID-19 pushes patients to delay procedures or not take them at all. These deferred, delayed, or canceled procedures are ones that could’ve been managed as an outpatient in a clinic, according to Biggins. This choice potentially advances the condition, making it harder to treat, while also increasing the possibility of needing hospitalization.
UW Medicine has been administering telehealth visits and telephone care to give patients the care they need while in quarantine, but sometimes patients have to be brought into the clinic as well, Biggins said.
He also said that patients are in a safe environment to get the care they need, and that they’re in the hands of one of the nation’s leaders in testing and identifying COVID-19.
At UW Medicine, patients and providers are masked in clinics, and areas in hospitals with COVID-19 patients are distinct from those with transplant patients. COVID-19 tests are conducted on the donors and recipients of organ transplants.
“[We] have in place infection control practices that can make their clinical care as safe as possible,” Biggins said. “We’re here to help them.”
Lots of communication happens between the hospital staff and patients to outline care and safety measures put in place at UW Medicine, and the work has paid off.
Biggins said UW Medicine has had immense success with solid organ transplant procedures since March 16. The hospital system was able to move forward with 31 kidney, 19 liver, 12 heart, and eight lung transplants, as well as one adult-to-child live donor liver transplant.
Six weeks after the transplant leadership team officially met March 16 to discuss putting organ transplant needs at Tier 3b –– to not be delayed if possible –– UW Medicine decided to keep their doors open for transplants despite regional and national programs halting or pausing theirs, according to Biggins.
An adult donor who gave part of her liver to her young niece in a life-saving procedure was not immune to the anxiety of potentially getting the coronavirus while in the hospital.
“To no surprise, she was very anxious about not just having the [coronavirus] testing, but [also] spending days in the hospital recovering from a live donor surgery without family at the bedside,” Biggins said. “She was quite brave and put forward and she did well, and her recipient, her young niece, is also doing well.”
Biggins recognized that there has been a lot of messaging to the public to stay home for your own health and your community, and that message has gotten through to a large extent.
“Those policies are in place to help and should be followed; be smart and use common sense,” Biggins said. “When you need to get out and get food, when you need to get out and interact for your own mental health with the outdoors, with family members, and for sure seeking medical care, it can be done, it just needs to be done smartly and with a degree of common sense.”
Reach contributing writer Diana Davidson at email@example.com. Twitter: @dianavdavidson
Like what you’re reading? Support high-quality student journalism by donating here.