By Richard Casavecchia
Special to the Express
The COVID-19 response has created a number of secondary health situations due to fewer people going to the doctor for non-COVID related appointments. The reason for this is multifaceted. Some hospitals and medical centers had stopped booking non-emergency appointments. Some people are staying away from their physician or specialist out of fear of contracting the virus or not wanting to burden the system with routine appointments. And some people just don’t know that their provider is seeing patients.
As we progress further into the COVID quarantine and the limitations passed down from our state and local governments persist, the non-COVID related health consequences are becoming more and more pronounced and needing of our attention. Mental health issues were among the first side effects we saw; both suicides and appointments with mental health specialists are well above normal. But as we progress through month four of the quarantine, the risk from a lack of normal care for chronic conditions and routine care for the young will increase.
Children need their wellness visits. Babies under 2 years old should be seen at 1, 2, 4, 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 24 months for developmental tests and vaccinations. Diabetics should be keeping up on their appointments and testing and ensuring they control their A1C. People with high blood pressure and folks in the risk categories for cancer still need their usual checkups and screenings. Periodic dental cleanings and dental work still need to be done. Our health needs haven’t stopped because many aspects of daily life have.
Fortunately, options for care are actually more varied than pre-COVID. Aside from the usual office visits, telemedicine with doctors has become much more common. Physical screenings obviously can’t be conducted over the phone, but many health concerns can be addressed and in-person appointments can be had for necessary non-emergency tests. I had surgery four weeks ago and all but the surgery and post-op were done over the phone, including a follow-up prescription that became necessary. It is imperative that we all continue to reach out to our health providers when necessary. This is even more true for people with chronic conditions that require ongoing care and those in higher-risk categories that could result in complications if they contract COVID-19.
This may be common knowledge for many folks in town but as a reference for anyone who doesn’t know or recently moved, we have a number of healthcare provider options in Winters for dental, eyesight, and primary care. In no particular order: Dr. Hiramatsu, Dr. Mazza, and Dr. Antoniu are all local dentists or dental surgeons that can be found on Google Maps. Winters Eyecare is on the corner of the roundabout. Sutter Health has an office next to Anytime Fitness on Main Street and next to Lorenzo’s Market on East Grant. Winters Healthcare Foundation has their brand-new building next to Dollar General that offers dental, primary care, prenatal care, behavioral health services, and accepts a wide variety of private health insurance as well as Medi-Cal and Medicare. Sutter and Winters Healthcare are both offering COVID-19 testing, too. I am sure a quick phone call to any of the above providers could confirm their current office hours if they are accepting new patients, and which insurance plans they accept.
Your individual health is just as if not more important during these times than it was before. If you have been putting off going to the doctor, call and make an appointment. If you have a condition that usually requires frequent visits or checkups, call and make an appointment. If you have a young child with a checkup coming up or that has been missed, call and make an appointment. If you are in mental or emotional distress or just feel like you need support from a mental health professional, call and make an appointment. If you have a friend or loved one who could answer yes to any of the above questions or has some other health situation that requires care, call them, see how they’re doing, and suggest they make an appointment. The secondary health effects of the pandemic are entirely avoidable and we each have the power to minimize and eliminate them through maintaining agency over our own health.