USA Health CMO: Patients should not voluntarily put off procedures

Coronavirus

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — USA Health’s Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Chang says even when restrictions are lifted, we’ll be dealing with COVID-19 until a vaccine is created. Dr. Chang says the pandemic has changed the structure and process of how healthcare is delivered now and will be in the future.

Elective surgeries are still on hold in Alabama and will be until the Alabama Department of Public Health decides it is safe. However, Dr. Chang says a lot of people who can be treated have been voluntarily putting off procedures due to fear of the virus.

“We’ve already seen that there are some patients that have been putting off procedures that really just need to be done and have moved from being what I would call non-time sensitive to becoming time sensitive. Those need to be done for the betterment of the patient’s health because it’s much better to do a preventive procedure than it is to try and salvage a patient in an emergency,” said Dr. Chang.

USA Health has made changes to operation procedures to ensure the safety of patients and staff. Any patient getting a procedure that requires a breathing tube or something similar will need to be tested for COVID-19 before the scheduled operation. The health system is also expanding operation hours to include evenings and weekends to deal with the backlog that has been created over the last six weeks. Dr. Chang is encouraging patients who can have their procedures done to schedule them.

Dr. Chang says the health system is also taking precautions in all of its emergency rooms. Chairs in the waiting room have been spread out to meet social distancing guidelines. Patients are screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they come into the building. Potential patients also have the option to wait in their cars if immediate treatment is not needed.

When it comes to elective surgeries, Dr. Chang says USA Health is ready whenever the state gives the green light. “I do believe it’s safe to start doing more of the time-sensitive procedures and tests that we need to do and that’s a very broad spectrum of things. For example, chest x-rays, screening mammogram, we’ve got to start chemotherapy back for our patients with cancer. We’re just going to have to do it differently than we did before. It is safe to provide more care because we do have the capacity in our healthcare system,” said Dr. Chang

USA Health says their rate of COVID-19 infection among staff is extremely low, defined as “less than one half of one percent of employees.” News 5 has asked several times for an exact number, but we have not been given one.

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