In a New York Times Opinion piece, Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., Mayo Clinic's president and CEO, and Tomislav Mihaljevic, M.D., chief executive and president of the Cleveland Clinic, join forces to send a clear message: patients should not delay needed care or screenings, or the toll of COVID-19 will be much greater.
The piece, titled "How Many More Will Die From Fear of the Coronavirus?" appeared in the June 9 edition of the newspaper.
"More than 100,000 Americans have died from COVID-19," the two leaders write. "Beyond those deaths are other casualties of the pandemic — Americans seriously ill with other ailments who avoided care because they feared contracting the coronavirus at hospitals and clinics."
While hospitals deferred nonessential care during the early phases of the pandemic, they also put protocols in place to make patient care safe for both patients and medical staff. Now, as state restrictions lift, medical facilities are welcoming patients back, and patients should be sure they're tending to other health issues and not be deterred by safety concerns.
Statistics show some patients continue to avoid medical facilities for fear of contracting COVID-19, to their detriment. That extends to missed screenings, which could catch disease earlier at more treatable stages, and even delays in seeking emergency care.
To prevent further harm, people with serious, complex and acute illnesses must now return to the doctor for care.Gianrico Farrugia, M.D., and Tomislav Mihaljevic, M.D.
"To prevent further harm, people with serious, complex and acute illnesses must now return to the doctor for care," Drs. Farrugia and Mihaljevic write. "We’re taking unprecedented actions, such as restricting visiting hours, screening patient and caregiver temperatures at entrances, encouraging employees to work from home whenever possible, providing spaces that allow for social distancing, and requiring proper hand hygiene, cough etiquette and masking."
In addition, both institutions have greatly expanded the numbers of patients seen remotely, particularly for chronic conditions. Still, there "is no substitute for in-person care for those who are severely ill or require early interventions for life-threatening conditions," they write.
"The true cost of this epidemic will not be measured in dollars; it will be measured in human lives and human suffering," the two leaders write.
The editorial in the New York times was a very public statement by both Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic leaders that their institutions are doing all they can to protect patients from the coronavirus and the consequences of not seeking medical care when it's needed.
Read the full commentary in the New York Times.
This article is written by Mayo Clinic staff.