It doesn’t matter what news source you watch, you’ve probably heard about the shortage of supplies. These shortages include not just beds, ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE), but doctors, nurses and other healthcare personnel. The issue with these shortages is that it’s not just people infected with COVID-19 that are impacted, but individuals who are having “normal” health issues.
With resources being scarce, many healthcare facilities are unable to provide care to non-COVID-19 patients. In addition, even if there is space, many facilities are hesitant to encourage people to come in for fear of them being infected with the virus. Many patients feel this way too and are avoiding going to the hospital, even when they probably should. As a result of these concerns, early in the pandemic elective surgeries, routine checkups and anything else that is non-emergent has been put on hold.
The concern now is that as we continue to push off non-emergent cases, some conditions can become life threatening or leave the patient with permanent disability if not treated in a timely manner. This has led to many wondering at what point is it too long to postpone medical care. People with cancer are having to delay treatment. Individuals who need an organ transplant have been told that they have to wait. Even patients that need brain surgery to prevent the possibility of having strokes are waiting. Essential services, like receiving routine lab tests for diabetics or people on blood thinners, have disappeared.
All of these changes are and will continue to have a significant impact on the lives of the individuals who need these services. People are still having heart attacks, diabetic problems, strokes and many other critical issues that aren’t being addressed the way that they were just a few months ago. People are dying as a result. This means that there will be a secondary death toll that doesn’t get counted in the COVID-19 numbers, but should because while the individuals didn’t die from the virus, itself, they died from the inability to get the care that is normally rendered for their medical conditions.