Where Have All The Patients Gone?

by May 11, 20200 comments

Hallmarking the signs of war – fear and terror preparing for the onslaught. Battle shields (face) ready. Through the wall and doors – burst like a ruthless force. Reasonable preparation as we watched our Italian colleagues decide who lives or dies. The Trolley Dilemma, a philosophical thought experiment comes to life.

But then the silence – eerily quiet. Only the sounds of staff heartbeats returning to a regular rhythm.

Where have the tummy pains, infected bites, bumps and bruises gone? One explanation is that patients are afraid of accessing healthcare due to fears of contracting COVID.   Instead, public hospital data indicates that patients are presenting – later and sicker.  There have been reported incidences of perforated bowels and cardiac arrests due to delayed diagnosis because patients are not accessing healthcare in a timely fashion.

The WiSE Respiratory Clinic based in Macquarie Park is seeing up to 100 patients a day for assessment and testing of patients with cough, cold, fever symptoms. A coordinated Wise and Commonwealth Government strategy magically unfolded within a few days. Next door, however, the WiSE Clinic, a community-based emergency clinic with an aim of hospital avoidance, was seeing up to 50 patients a day, pre-COVID. Patients with sub-acute injuries and illness accessing timely specialist emergency care. Now, we are seeing trickles of patients. Dr Pankaj Arora, Emergency Consultant and CEO of WiSE “Instead the patients we are seeing are presenting 5 days later than usual with a nearly ruptured appendicitis, raging skin infections requiring days of intravenous antibiotics and psychological trauma from sustaining ongoing acute pain.”

What is our advice? Do not put off your health for fears of contracting COVID. Australia’s healthcare system is easily one of the most advanced and successful in the world. A grand average life expectancy of 80.4 years.  However, this fear that is encapsulating patients will compromise the state of our health profile. Our efforts should go towards a new design, where health, design and technology are interconnected. Better access via Telehealth is a step in the right direction. A step forward, that hopefully we will not be retracted. However, it is not to undervalue the benefit of face-to-face care.  WiSE has strategically designed the physical layout to eliminate the spread of disease so our emergency doctors can assess, diagnose and treat you on the spot. 

I fear the collateral damage from this pandemic. As we fight this disease, we must also be smart and sensible during this time.

Kate Robertson – Chief Operating Officer at WiSE Specialist Emergency- Macquarie Park

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