As the COVID-19 response continues, there is growing evidence that people are not seeking the care they need to manage complex health needs for fear of contracting COVID-19.
Delaying health care can be a risky, and often unnecessary, choice that could lead to long-term negative health consequences.
That’s why we have worked for months to prepare for what is the new normal. Hospitals need to be able to care for patients who have COVID-19 as well as all others who need medical care.
Patients have been treated at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics for various urgent health issues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, 3 percent of our patients are COVID-19 positive, in isolation. That leaves 97 percent of patients who still need advanced cancer care, heart procedures, surgeries and doctor visits that are essential to their well-being.
The first step in getting the care you need. Taking care of those who need immediate care is why Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced that inpatient surgeries and procedures may resume in Iowa. The governor’s proclamation applies to surgeries and procedures that, if further delayed, will pose a significant risk to some Iowans’ quality of life.
To provide these additional services, health care organizations must be able to meet and maintain a stringent set of safety requirements.
For example, care providers must have adequate inventories of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their staff and patients and a plan to conserve PPE, in accordance with guidance from the CDC and the Iowa Department of Public Health. They also must factor in and be able to safely handle potential demands that may come from additional COVID-19 cases.
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University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics meets those requirements. We monitor supplies daily, continue to find new ways to conserve and safely use PPE, and can modify operations quickly. We also test every surgical patient for COVID-19 before their procedure to ensure the safety and health of our patients and staff members.
Safety continues to be our top priority
UI Hospitals & Clinics has created a new standard for safety in the COVID-19 era and we believe that all patients are safe to come to our facilities for any of their health care needs. We have many added safety measures in place, including:
• Extra cleaning and disinfecting
• Hand hygiene locations throughout our clinics and hospitals
• Visitor limitations to support social distancing
• Limited entry points so everyone is screened for signs of respiratory illness
• Face shields for all staff members to prevent the spread of illness
These measures will remain in place indefinitely so that we can safely and gradually resume essential surgeries and provide safe care for all patients.
Patients can take their own safety measures while they are receiving care — such as social distancing, washing hands, and wearing a cloth face mask or covering.
Take control of your health with a call to your doctor. Please don’t delay if you need medical help. Call your provider so they can help you decide if you need an appointment.
You may have more options than you realize. Many care providers, including University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, have implemented telehealth appointments in which you are seen online or via telephone from the comfort of your own home.
If you do need to go to a clinic or hospital to be seen, be assured we are ready to provide the care you need using every safety measure we have in place.
Be safe, Iowans, and take care of your health as we all learn together what is the new normal.
Suresh Gunasekaran is CEO of the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.