We know the pandemic our nation is facing is causing challenges and concerns. But alarmingly, hospitals and health systems in our community and across the nation are seeing a decline in the number of people seeking treatment for heart attack, stroke, cancer and other serious conditions not related to coronavirus. We are also seeing fewer people seeking routine medical care everyone needs to stay their healthiest.

Delaying care not only puts people at risk for declining health, it can be life-threatening.

We understand the fear you may have of contracting the virus and developing COVID-19. We want to assure you that our top priority is the safety of our patients, visitors and staff. That’s why we have taken extra steps to protect every patient and staff member from exposure to novel coronavirus. It is safe to come to our facilities and have medically necessary and time-sensitive treatments and procedures you need.

Our teams treat patients with respiratory illnesses every day. We have the training, tools and techniques in place to isolate and care for those who have or are at risk for COVID-19. We are strictly following guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to protect those who need care for noncoronavirus health care needs.

Our organizations are working together to manage this pandemic’s impact on our metropolitan area. Together, we are encouraging you, and all of us, to stay as healthy as possible by taking good care and getting needed health care services. We are ready and able to provide your care in a safe environment.

The extra precautions and processes we have put in place to keep you, your family and our staff safe include:

• restricted visitations;

• separate waiting and triage areas for patients with respiratory or infectious illness;

• use of appropriate masks and other personal protective equipment by staff and patients;

• screening and testing, if indicated, of all patients and employees for COVID-19 symptoms prior to entry in our facilities;

• rigid adherence to physical distancing of 6 feet between each person in waiting areas and hallways;

• expedited entry to an exam room for patients receiving ambulatory or outpatient care;

• virtual check-in and checkout for appointments, which are completed by phone; and

• continued strong advocacy for measures prevent spread of the virus including practicing good hand hygiene and covering coughs.

We’ve also made it possible for many patients to receive some of their care by telehealth. This allows patients to interact with their care provider by video and audio connection using their smartphone, tablet or computer.

We’ve taken these steps because we’re here for you, just as you have been here for us. We want to extend our heartfelt thanks for the outpouring of support you have shown health care professionals across the metro area who are working around the clock caring for patients during this challenging time. From kind messages of support and financial gifts to meals and supplies delivered to our employees, your thoughtfulness has made a difference in the lives of our heroic teams. We are here to make a difference in yours.

This column was co-authored by Raghu Adiga, chief medical officer at Liberty Hospital; Larry Botts, chief medical officer at AdventHealth in Shawnee Mission, Kansas; Mark Steele, executive chief clinical officer for Truman Medical Centers/University Health; and Steve Stites, chief medical officer for the University of Kansas Health System.

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