Milwaukee-area health care providers urge patients to seek routine, acute care amid pandemic

Ascension's Shorewood clinic

Last updated on May 4th, 2020 at 06:52 pm

Milwaukee-area health care providers are urging patients to not put off non-coronavirus-related preventive and routine visits amid the pandemic.

Advocate Aurora Health, Ascension Wisconsin, Children’s Wisconsin, Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, ProHealth Care and Milwaukee’s community health centers have all reported significant decreases in the number of people coming to their emergency rooms, urgent care clinics and outpatient centers for critical and routine care.  

The health systems – through a Milwaukee Health Care Partnership communication campaign – are encouraging patients to come back to their facilities to receive care. 

“A major concern is patients who are delaying evaluation for acute conditions,” said Dr. Marc de Moya, chief of trauma and acute care surgery at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin. “If patients wait too long, they may need a longer hospitalization, have complications that could have been avoided – or worse. Individuals with symptoms of acute conditions such as heart attack, stroke or appendicitis need to seek care now.”

Dr. Mike Gutzeit, chief medical officer at Children’s Wisconsin said: “We have seen families wait for days to have an injured arm or leg evaluated. And we are also seeing some families delay vaccinations. If anything, this pandemic has shown the risk communicable diseases pose and the importance of vaccines.” 

MHCP members said they have modified processes and procedures to ensure patient safety, including screening patients and visitors, universal masking policies, visitor restrictions, increased telehealth services and having designated areas for COVID-19 patients.

“Chronic disease management is so important, especially among African American and Hispanic populations that experience significant health disparities,” said Jenni Sevenich, chief executive officer of Progressive Community Health Centers. “Community health centers help individuals manage chronic conditions like diabetes, hypertension and asthma. It’s essential for our patients to maintain their regular care and medications. Whether their visits are through video, over the phone, or in person, we are prepared to meet their needs.” 

Health systems have suspended nonemergency procedures since March in preparation for a surge in COVID-19 patients. The measure, which was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is aimed at reserving beds for critically ill COVID-19 patients, preserving the supply of personal protective equipment for health care workers and mitigate further spread of the virus.

So far, the coronavirus has not overwhelmed southeastern Wisconsin hospitals’ bed capacity.

Currently, Milwaukee-area hospitals are each working to expand non-emergency care, prioritizing surgical procedures that were postponed and scheduling other services, based on testing availability, contact tracing capacity and PPE supplies, MHCP said.

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