Overcoming the Fear of COVID-19
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been a real roller coaster ride. Everyone has been impacted by this virus, whether you know someone who contracted it or not. It has changed the way we engage in our community, support local businesses, and attend school as well as religious services. It has impacted our ability to gather with family and friends. Some of us have had to say goodbye to loved ones and meet new little ones in ways we would not have imagined just six months ago.
In our community, we have been lucky. We have not experienced the same high infection rates as other parts of Florida and across our country. However, people in our community are still dying because of COVID-19. No, it’s not just the virus itself; it is also the fear of contracting it. It has become far too common for us at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) to hear about people delaying or avoiding medical care because they do not want to catch COVID-19. From avoiding one of our emergency centers when having a heart attack or stroke to skipping routine well-check appointments or follow-up visits for chronic health conditions, delaying medical care is resulting in tragedy. Please listen to me; the fear of COVID-19 is not worth dying over.
I am sure you are wondering, “Are there patients at TMH with COVID-19?” Yes, there are. All patients are evaluated for COVID-19, whether they come into a clinic or are transferred from another facility. If someone meets the criteria, they are placed on isolation protocols in a negative pressure room and tested for the virus. This is to keep everyone safe, from our colleagues to our other patients. We also developed a dedicated COVID-19 nursing unit complete with negative pressure zones so TMH can effectively care for a surge in admitted coronavirus patients. Our colleagues who have provided direct patient care to someone with COVID-19 have also been tested for coronavirus antibodies. So far, every test has come back negative. To me, that means our processes work. Our colleagues are keeping themselves, each other and our patients safe.
In reality, going to a physician’s office or the hospital is safe. TMH has always been focused on safety and we have ramped up our processes and procedures for this pandemic. Every person who enters a TMH facility must wear a mask and be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. All 5,500+ TMH colleagues have been trained about COVID-19 and what symptoms to look for on a daily basis. Our visitor policy has been restricted to limit outside germs from coming into our buildings. The disinfectants we use were hand-selected for their ability to broadly fight pathogens, including coronavirus. In addition, we use ultraviolet light (UV) to zap viruses and bacteria throughout the hospital. These effective tools aren’t new, but we are using them in innovative ways to ensure our spaces are as sanitized as possible.
Now is the time to stay informed and make your health a priority. Keep social distancing, practice good hand hygiene, and wear your mask in public. If you haven’t already, call your doctor’s office and learn about how they are protecting patients.
By Andrea Friall, MD, Vice President/Chief Medical Officer at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare