Spectrum CMO: Don’t ignore medical emergencies

Coronavirus

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Spectrum Health’s top doctor is reminding the public it’s safe, and in some cases necessary, to seek medical attention amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s vital that patients realize that our health care system is safer to venture out into than going to the grocery store even,” Spectrum Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Joshua Kooistra told News 8 Friday. “I think that it’s extremely important for patients to know that if they have symptoms that would’ve concerned them before COVID 19, that they follow the same course they would have today.”

Since concern for contracting the virus has risen, Kooistra said they’ve seen people who have put off going to an emergency room.

“We don’t want patients not coming to the emergency department with chest pain. We don’t want patients staying away from their physicians because we have seen patients that delayed care do have worse outcomes because they didn’t seek care earlier,” he added.

Spectrum, like many other health care systems, screens employees and visitors daily in addition to ramping up sanitation efforts within buildings.

Someone who needs treatment for something unrelated to COVID-19 should not be worried about contracting the virus just by going to the hospital.

“In some of our facilities where we’re seeing the volumes of patients presenting with COVID-like symptoms, we do screen them through a different entrance,” Kooistra explained. “It’s not universal, but universally we are able to identify those patients upfront and put procedures in place, like a mask on them immediately, and then take them back into areas that are specific for treating COVID-19.”

Kooistra also told News 8 Spectrum is seeing an adequate supply of personal protection equipment. Patient numbers are also currently manageable inside hospitals.

“We have pretty open capacity at the medical center in Grand Rapids and then our regional hospitals,” he said. “We have ICU beds still available, certainly not having any concerns with ventilators capacities or anything like that we’ve seen in New York and Detroit. We have the ability to care for COVID-19 patients and for patients that don’t have COVID-19 that are presenting for other health care needs.”

Despite offering to care for out-of-area patients, Kooistra said the need haven’t been that great.

“The logistics of somebody traveling that distance with no family members, it really was not that appealing, so it’s been really limited,” the chief medical officer said. “In current state, although we would be open to continuing that, the reality is that we’re not.”

Kooistra credits a lower number of patients compared to the east side for allowing Spectrum to prepare for a surge should cases spike in West Michigan.

The preparation has also allowed the health care system to get back to completing appointments that were canceled at the beginning of the pandemic.

“We deferred, you know, over 22,000 radiology studies. We deferred multiple surgeries, office visits and we’re really looking at all of those on a case by case basis and trying to pull forward and get patients the care they need now while we’re able to safely provide it.”

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