With COVID-19 cases in the country reaching over 380,000, many of us feel fear about going to hospitals or healthcare centers where confirmed and suspected COVID-19 patients are admitted. But the current reality is, going to hospitals or healthcare centers is highly encouraged, especially for diseases and conditions that need immediate medical attention.
Delaying care for medical emergencies could lead to serious complications and may be life-threatening.
In the following situations, you would need immediate medical attention:
- Signs of heart-disease-related complications like chest pain or pressure that could be attributed to heart attacks
- Signs of a stroke
- Cancer treatments
- Fatal injuries
- Sudden and severe pain
- Bleeding that won’t immediately stop
- Vomiting or diarrhea episodes that last too long
- COVID-related symptoms such as trouble breathing, fever, tiredness, and dry cough
- Other urgent medical emergencies – keep your healthcare center’s contact details on-hand just in case!
Some surgeries may need to be carried out right away as well. These include:
- Emergent operations related to the heart, other cardiovascular procedures
- Emergency C-sections
- Surgery for skull trauma with uncontrolled bleeding
- Cerebral aneurysm repair
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Coughing up a lot of blood (could be internal bleeding i.e lungs)
- Open or bleeding fractures
- Nerve/spinal cord injuries
- Skin grafts
- And other emergent and urgent surgeries that could be an immediate threat to a person’s life.
Dr. Jose Antonio Salud, President of the Philippine College of Surgeons (PCS) mentioned in a press conference – Tapatan sa the Aristocrat, organized and hosted by broadcast journalist Melo Acuna – that there is currently a ‘pandemic of fear’ among patients who need to seek medical care. Cancer patients, in particular, have delayed consultation, check-up, and therapy for fear of potentially getting infected with COVID-19, leading to a progression in their disease.
Thus, the PCS has published guidelines on how hospitals can conduct relatively safe surgeries or medical procedures. Surgery operating rooms, in particular, have separate areas for COVID and non-COVID patients. The equipment, and even the attending staff, are also separate, to ensure the safety of all patients undergoing surgical procedures.
In the same media conference, Department of Health (DOH) Undersecretary Gerardo Bayugo confirmed this by saying that COVID-positive, COVID-suspect, and non-COVID patient areas are separate in most hospitals in order to continue to administer proper quality care to all patients.
Dr. Arthur Dessi Roman, an Infectious Disease Specialist, and former president of the Philippine Hospital Infection Control Society (PHICS) also mentioned that even before patients enter the hospital, they are already screened by way of a standard series of questions, checklists, and swab testing if necessary. The risk of surgery patients is also assessed to help determine which PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) medical attending staff should use to keep them protected and to prevent the spread of any virus. Standard and strict protocols for disinfection of instruments and operating areas are also in place.
All these steps are taken to assure patients needing immediate medical attention that they can get the care they need, and that it is relatively safe to do so in the hospitals and healthcare centers, as they adhere to the strictest standards, health protocols, and safety guidelines in order to keep patients from contracting COVID-19 or other bacterial and viral diseases.
What to remember before going to the hospital
If visiting the hospital or health care center is vital to your condition and is prescribed by your healthcare provider, know that hospitals and health care centers are ready to admit you safely.
Some safety guidelines include:
Requiring everyone in the hospital to wear face masks and face shields, as well as full personal protective equipment for all staff.
- Temperature scanning or screening at hospital entrances.
- Separation of waiting areas or holding areas for COVID-19 patients, PUMs (Person Under Monitoring), and PUIs (Patient Under Investigation) from areas for those with other non-COVID-related medical emergencies.
- Frequent cleaning and disinfecting of all parts of the hospital, including elevators, lavatories, and more.
- Strict social distancing at all times, including the use of acrylic safety barriers at places like in-hospital pharmacies and counters.
Remember to ask your doctor about the imposed safety standards prior to your visit. Likewise, wear personal protective equipment such as face masks, face shields, and gloves, and bring personal disinfectant items like alcohol sprays to help keep bacterial co-infections at bay.
Once home, patients or visitors of healthcare facilities should also observe sanitary practices in order to stop the spread of the disease. The basics, such as the regular washing of hands with antibacterial soap and water or an alcohol-based rub, refraining from touching the face especially the nose, mouth, and eyes, and immediate washing and disinfecting of clothes and accessories used outside need to be carefully followed at all times.
Alternatively, if your healthcare provider offers telehealth, consider scheduling consultations with them through digital means.
Healthcare professionals, healthcare organizations, and health advocates all have a part to play in raising awareness around the safety of visiting healthcare centers amidst the pandemic, to protect the health and well-being of the Filipino patient.