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Wear the Gown: Delayed, skipped doctor's visits because of coronavirus fears could lead to more serious health issues

Dr. Thomas Murphy and other physicians explain why its important to keep up routine check-ups and other visits despite COVID-19 fears.

HOUSTON — Dr. Thomas Murphy with UT Physicians says the last two weeks have been a double-edged sword.

He’s happy his patients took the stay-at-home order seriously, but it also means many of them missed coming in for necessary check-ups over coronavirus fears.

“One example: the patients who had bronchitis, now have pneumonia,” Murphy said.

Murphy said the fear of coming to hospitals and clinics has also caused patients to skip or delay important screenings, too.

It’s a trend across the country.

The CDC estimates there were 20,000 to 30,000 excess deaths between January and April due to delay of care.

Missing opportunities for medical care is also a problem with younger patients, specifically when it comes to missing or delaying immunizations.

“Things like measles, pertussis– we’re still vulnerable to the consequences of those diseases,” pediatrician Dr. Kenya Parks said.

Parks said even if parents are concerned about bringing their children in, the best thing they can do is call their child’s physician and convey their concerns.

“We’re doing everything to safeguard their children and their family, and we want to make sure they remain healthy,” Parks said.

UT Physicians clinics are taking a number of steps to ensure that.

Patients are screened when they arrive.

The staff limits the number of people in the waiting room, where chairs are spaced six feet apart.

And every exam room is sanitized after each patient visit.

Murphy adds the visits are also a way for doctor’s to check on their patient’s mental well-being during a time of uncertainty.

“We’re social beings, we need to be out with other people,” Murphy said.

“The patients need to know that there’s someone there that actually cares for them.”

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