Health Trends: Sustaining care amidst the pandemic
Over the past several months health news has centered almost exclusively on one subject: COVID-19. Meanwhile other health concerns – broken bones, arthritis, anxiety, heart disease – haven’t decreased despite their lack of limelight. And as communities continue to grapple with the numerous impacts of the virus, healthcare professionals across all specialties are balancing the necessity of treating normal health concerns while protecting patients from the virus, defining new trends in how and when patients are seen.
As a full-service hospital, Touro has been in the unique position of treating patients with routine health needs as well as patients suffering from COVID-19. According to Dr. Andrew Siegel, Internal Medicine Physician, the hospital saw a peak of admissions at the start of the pandemic for COVID-19-related illnesses while regular admissions dropped greatly. Only over the last couple of months have admissions and doctor’s visits unrelated to COVID-19 begun to increase.
“With in-clinic and virtual care appointments available, we’re taking extra measures to keep our hospital and clinics safe,” says Siegel. These measures include isolating patients with COVID-19 or related symptoms, enhanced COVID-19 screenings of patients and staff, mandatory face masking, limiting visitors, distanced seating in waiting and exam rooms, extra cleaning measures and virtual, or “telehealth,” appointments.
Touro 1401 Foucher St., (844) 392-4640, Touro.com
Children’s Hospital also saw a sharp decline in primary care and specialty visits beginning in March, but the organization was able to quickly adapt to continue caring for patients through its rapidly expanded virtual care platform, which includes 24/7 urgent care, primary care, specialty care and behavioral health services.
“Prior to COVID-19, our Virtual Care program saw on average 130 visits per month, and during the height of the pandemic we saw 7,253 virtual visits in one month,” says Dr. Amanda Jackson, Vice President of Physician Services and Medical Director of Primary Care at Children’s.
While virtual care will continue to be an important offering, Jackson emphasizes the need for continuing in-person child well visits and keeping kids up-to-date with vaccines, which protect against diseases like measles, mumps and the whooping cough. Like Touro, Children’s is taking a number of safety precautions to keep families safe when visiting.
Children’s Hospital 200 Henry Clay Ave., 899-9511, CHNola.org
A comprehensive community health center, CrescentCare quickly set up COVID-19 testing at the center’s new flagship location on Elysian Fields early in the pandemic. Walk-up testing is still available for anyone Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Meanwhile, CrescentCare also offers primary medical care, behavioral health, health education and supportive services, dental, pediatric and psychiatric services. According to CEO Noel Twilbeck, the center has seen a continual rise in patients since March.
“Part of that increase is due to the COVID testing,” he says. “It is also reflective of the need for primary medical care and behavioral health services.” Most of CrescentCare’s staff are working from home with many visits being conducted through telehealth. Some situations, though, call for an in-person visit, and the clinic requires masking and screening upon entry.
CrescentCare 1631 Elysian Fields Ave., 821-2601, CrescentCare.org
For many specialists across the city, the pandemic caused temporary postponements of consultations and surgeries, but fortunately for patients, these services are returning.
“The state placed a moratorium on all elective surgeries at the beginning of the pandemic, which makes up 99 percent of the surgeries I routinely perform,” says Dr. Nelson Mead, a fellowship-trained orthopaedic and sports medicine surgeon at Crescent City Orthopaedics. Since the moratorium was lifted, the practice has seen an increase in consultations and surgeries, though Mead expects the increase to slow as long as restrictions on organized sports continue to be in place.
Mead worries that fears of the virus will prevent people from seeking the care they need and further put their bodies at risk.
“From an orthopaedic standpoint, don’t let new onset knee pain persist because you’re avoiding seeing your doctor for fear of exposure,” he says. “Visit your doctor and have the knee pain treated so that you can return to exercising.”
Crescent City Orthopaedics 3600 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 233-0986, CrescentCityOrtho.com
At Surgical Specialists of Louisiana, Dr. Matthew French has seen a surprising rise in consultations and surgeries when compared with last year’s numbers. French’s practice is largely geared towards helping people lose weight, and while he attributes some of the rise to playing catch-up, he also notes that people are taking seriously the association of obesity with severe consequences of COVID-19. The majority of his visits are now done via telehealth. When in-person consults are needed, patients and staff wear masks and patients are asked to wait in their vehicles and enter alone for visits.
The Surgical Specialists of Louisiana 3100 Galleria Drive, Metairie, 934-3000, WhyWeight.com/matthew-french
At Aspire to Empower Counseling Services, Owner and LPC-S Deatrice Green is seeing a rise in people seeking counseling services, which she attributes to two factors: fear/isolation due to COVID-19 and social injustices that act as stressors for community members. For now, Green is only providing counseling sessions via telehealth. A Registered Play Therapist Supervisor, she has additional expertise working with children and emphasizes that they experience many of the same thoughts and emotions as adults.
“So very often, the voices of children are not heard or attended to,” says Green. Adults need to be mindful that while we’ve acquired some coping mechanisms to get us through difficult emotions, many children have not. Green recommends maintaining regular counseling sessions for both children and adults as a way to work through feelings of anger, disappointment, frustration, fear and hurt. She also notes the connection of mental health with physical health – being mindful of habits like eating and creating routines that include self-care methods can help.
Aspire to Empower, LLC 1050 S. Jefferson Davis Parkway, Suites 209 & 211, 300-9163, AspireToEmpower.com
Effects of the pandemic have been felt by all age groups, but isolation has significantly impacted older adults who are known to be at higher risk. As retirement communities moved to limit visitors, many families brought their senior loved ones home. These moves have led to a rise in caregiver hours and inquiries with companies like Home Care Solutions.
“Many families are under additional pressure to provide care for an aging loved one, and as many of them are also coping with massive changes to their own schedules and lives, we can step in and provide an extra arm of support while providing less risk of exposure than at a retirement community with the added benefit of loved ones not being isolated from their families,” says Rachel Palmer, Community Liaison. Home Care Solutions supplies caregivers with masks, hand sanitizer and gloves, which are only meant for use with personal care of a client. The company sees this as an opportunity to provide for aging loved ones’ needs while providing comfort and stability in uncertain times.
Home Care Solutions 3421 N. Causeway Blvd., Suite 502, Metairie, 828-0900, HomeCareNewOrleans.com
Creativity abounds in New Orleans, where people like to have fun with everything – that includes masks and protective accessories such as hand sanitizer cases, clips and chains.
“We’re such an expressive community in New Orleans – you might not be able to see our smiles, but we can wear a part of our expressiveness in our masks,” says Martha Claire Breland, Owner of local gift shop Judy at the Rink. Judy at the Rink stocks locally made, colorful and luxury masks, mask chains, touchless tool key rings and hand sanitizer.
“We have hand sanitizer, masks and disinfectant at the store,” she says. “We only allow five customers in the store at any given time. We’re trying to do our part.”
Sazerac Company, maker of Sazerac Rye and the company behind local whiskey museum Sazerac House, normally centers its business on the production of aged spirits but pivoted early in the pandemic to fill an immediate need across the country for hand sanitizer.
“To date, we have made 120 million ounces of hand sanitizer,” says Amy Preske, Public Relations Manager. “We have supplied the world’s largest companies in the financial, airline, retail, healthcare and government industries,” she says. The company intends to continue making hand sanitizer as long as necessary while continuing production of its spirits, such as Buffalo Trace bourbon, Sazerac Rye, Southern Comfort and Myers’s Rum. The sanitizer is available for purchase at BuffaloTraceGiftShop.com.
Gold touch-less tool available from Judy at the Rink.
Judy at the Rink 2727 Prytania Street, Suite 11, 891-7018, JudyAtTheRink.com
Bottling of hand sanitizer from the Buffalo Trace Distillery plant in Frankfort, KY. Photo provided by Sazerac Company.
Sazerac Company, Inc. 101 Magazine St., (866) 729-3722, Sazerac.com