Going to the hospital for treatment unrelated to COVID-19 during the pandemic

As the health-care system shifts its focus to battling the novel coronavirus pandemic, hospitals are adapting to treat both the influx of patients with the virus and those with other conditions.

“People are going to have heart attacks, strokes or fall and have an accident and moms are going to continue to have babies, and you can’t stop that, so you have to be prepared,” said Neil Johnson, vice president of Cancer Care for London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC).

Johnson tells Global News the focus has shifted to patients who are considered urgent and postponing treatments for patients who can wait 30 days.

“We are less than 70 per cent occupied in both our critical care and all of our other areas to prepare for the COVID patients.”

As LHSC and other hospitals adapt, the experience for patients is also changing. One significant difference is that people are not allowed to visit patients or accompany them during treatment.

“Our staff and physicians are very creative. They are trying to put in creative solutions for patients coming in for cancer treatments that need a loved one there,” Johnson said.

The staff at LHSC are working to find ways to connect patients undergoing cancer treatment with their support system remotely.

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“Our front-line staff members are doing a huge amount of work, and they have their own concerns about their patients, themselves and their families.”

Rob Matic talked to Global News about what its like battling colon cancer during COVID-19.

First diagnosed in 1995 when he was only 28, Matic discovered he had a genetic condition called Lynch syndrome, which means he has an increased risk of developing certain types of cancer.

“I spoke with my nurse, and she said the treatment you’re on does not put you at any greater risk,” Matic said.

Matic is currently part of a clinical trial to treat his colon cancer through immunotherapy, which requires him to travel down to Toronto for treatment.

“Getting to the hospital, there are a number of screening questions you have to be asked, and I think I compared that to a nicer version airport security.”

“Now they are telling people not to bring any visitors or companions with them, so it’s been surreal experience walking in and there only being a handful of people,” Matic said.

He considers himself lucky because his treatment is part of a clinical trial that can’t be put on hold. But he knows of other cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments that now have to wait.

“I heard some people have had to have their treatments pushed back, so it’s must be really tough on those doctors who have to determine who can take a break.”

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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