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Conversations with care providers key to seeking care during pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit, it quickly became the most important topic in communities around the globe. Our collective focus became protecting our families and ourselves from the virus.

We learned that decisive action by state and local government and a community effort to stay home was the best way to protect those we love. While these efforts were, and remain, necessary and helped us flatten the curve, other chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke didn’t go away and some in our community have delayed care waiting for the virus to pass.

For many chronic conditions, working with a provider to consistently manage care is one of the most important factors for improved outcomes. Delaying care has dire consequences.

Health systems like Vidant Health have been preparing for life with COVID-19 for some time now. We have developed and implemented superior cleaning techniques to include the use of the Solaris UV Lybots, which uses ultraviolet wavelengths to eliminate pathogens. We screen every person for symptoms and fever and ensure everyone wears a mask as they enter our clinical facilities.

We have taken these necessary measures to ensure the safety of team members and our patients because hospitals and clinics must continue to provide care, especially when our communities need us most.

Supported by North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Sec. Mandy Cohen’s announcement on Friday, May 1, Vidant is increasing access to essential care and services, meaning any surgery or procedure that, if not done within four weeks, would cause harm to the patient. This includes select general and orthopedic surgeries, cardiac, vascular and gastroenterology procedures.

We are doing this now because the threat of patients delaying care out of fear of COVID-19 is too great to ignore. At the same time, our testing capabilities, personal protective equipment supply and cleaning techniques have resulted in a safe environment in our hospitals.

This pandemic is far from over and we must remain vigilant. Prioritizing health means that those with chronic conditions call their primary care provider to seek guidance on receiving needed care. Our doctors, nurses and facilities are prepared to safely treat patients who need our care.

Niti S. Armistead, MD, FACP, is the chief medical officer of Vidant Health and affiliate professor, Internal Medicine, at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.