More than half of the people surveyed by a Baltimore area hospital said they would be concerned about going to the hospital for care, a result that underscores health experts’ fears that COVID-19 is deterring people who need other medical services from seeking them.
At the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, where the survey was conducted, the staff is taking additional precautions to protect patients and reassure them they can safely seek needed procedures and evaluations.
The Greater Baltimore Medical Center surveyed about 300 people in its primary service area, said Carolyn Candiello, GBMC’s vice president for quality and patient safety. Twenty-six percent of respondents indicated they were “very concerned” about returning, and 36% said they were “fairly concerned.” Candiello said there were no observed differences between respondents according to their race, sex or age. The survey has a margin of error of 6%.
People have been in lockdown for so long, Candiello said, that they worry whether it is safe to enter a hospital where patients are being treated for COVID-19. A common concern among respondents was whether or not hospitals could provide sufficient personal protective equipment.
GBMC has redoubled its safety protocols and stockpiled adequate levels of supplies, including PPE, said Candiello. Hospital workers fare also among the best-trained in infection prevention when compared to employees in other industries.
It is simply unsafe for people to put off routine procedures due to COVID-19 fears, said Candiello.
“I’ll give the example of screenings and a mammogram or a colonoscopy,” said Candiello. “These are important tests that can help identify health concerns early on, and we want to encourage our community to not be afraid to get those lifesaving screenings performed.”
Both procedures can detect life-threatening cancers.
When asked if there had been many cases of healthy patients contracting COVID-19 at GBMC facilities, Candiello said there is little data to determine infection sources. Since COVID-19 is still prevalent in the greater community, it is hard to pinpoint exactly where someone has contracted it.
Candiello said she recognizes people’s fears and concerns are real, and her friends and family often ask her about hospital safety in the COVID-19 era. She said she would tell the general public the same thing she tells them.
“We are doing everything we can to keep our community safe and not to feel afraid to come and get the care you need,” Candiello said. “And, so If I could just reemphasize how important it is, that receiving the care is more important. You’ve got to overcome that fear and know and trust that your nurses and your physicians are going to do everything they can. They’re people, too, and they know the best things to do to keep our patients safe.”
As hospital employees prioritize patient safety, Candiello said, the general public also has to follow those practices, such as washing hands, social distancing and, most importantly, wearing face masks.
“Wearing the mask is going to minimally affect me from getting it, but what it will do is prevent me from passing it on to you or to someone else who may be more at risk,” Candiello said. “So, it really is a sign of the ultimate caring for our community when we wear our masks, because we’re caring for each other.”
Candiello said Maryland state government is also highlighting the importance of wearing masks, as evidenced by the recent launch of #MasksOnMaryland, a social media campaign started by the Maryland Department of Health.