In the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19), many nations across the globe are on lockdown. As a result, many hospitals are at capacity and asking people, including those who suspect they have the virus or the full-blown disease, to stay away from hospitals.
This bizarre happening of being asked to stay away from places you are supposed to go in times of illness has many questioning how healthcare professionals will assess who to treat and how they will treat them.
Right now, healthcare professionals are looking to minimize the risk of spreading the virus. As such, the first step to helping a patient with the virus, or immunocompromised patients more susceptible to contracting the virus, is to order that they avoid large crowds and stay at home. This eases the burden on the healthcare system, but one wonders about the long-term ramifications that might occur with mental health. There are some people that should never be isolated due to underlying mental health concerns or because their personalities are such that they need daily human contact.
For some, quarantine must occur in a hospital. In those instances, healthcare workers will treat them at a distance, and, if needed, workers will wear surgical gowns and other protective gear when in close contact with the patient.
Our homes are becoming our everything in this outbreak. Healthcare professionals and the governments of the world have asked anyone who thinks they have the virus to stay secluded. Healthy people are being asked to stay away from large crowds and to stay at least six feet away from people when outside. Hospitals are using self-care as a stop-gap because they are so afraid that what we are seeing now is the tip of the iceberg. In the same breath, they are asking us not to panic.
Symptoms being used to determine if care is given
Testing is being rationed. If you do not exhibit symptoms that satisfy a healthcare professional, then you are denied the test. There is a danger in this as many patents may be asymptomatic, and they have proven this. In not testing masses of people (which they can’t because of a shortage of tests), this disease will spread further until it is at a point where there is no hope of gaining control over its spread.
Age and illness are factors
Healthcare professionals are treating this outbreak like any other. Outbreaks, like the flu, happen yearly. They are warning the elderly or the immunocompromised to stay home in an effort to curb the outbreak. But this also means that they are effectively being asked to stay away from the hospital in order to ease the burden on the system in case of a full-blown viral outbreak. If you protect the weakest, then you have a much better chance of a lower mortality rate.
A patient’s autonomy is being sidelined
Patients do and should always be autonomous in their right to accept or refuse treatment. But in the wake of this virus, many patients are being strong-armed into quarantine in an effort to contain the outbreak. Although not an ideal choice, doctors have to weigh the greater good. There are reports that police force has been used to enforce a quarantine on those who are reluctant.
Many are following the government’s requests to quarantine. Many have bought food and supplies and are hunkered down in their homes. There are many that can work from home. But for some, this is an impossible task. We all have to work to survive, and sixty percent of Americans do not have any emergency funds.
This virus is serious and, unfortunately, because of its nature, healthcare workers are going to have to make some very tough decisions in order to triage who gets care and testing and who does not. The lack of timely testing has seen death in those who could have gotten care, but that is the nature of a pandemic. Please do not panic. If you feel that you may have been exposed to the virus, attempt to seek medical treatment, wash your hands, and limit contact with others.