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SCV health care providers urge residents against skipping doctor visits

Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia. 041621. Dan Watson/The Signal
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital in Valencia. 041621. Dan Watson/The Signal
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As pandemic worries continue to loom over our heads, physicians across the Santa Clarita Valley are urging patients not to put off some of their medical appointments any longer. 

Through the pandemic, not only were many elective procedures and appointments put on hold, as hospitals worked to handle the surge in COVID-19 patients, but also many patients were nervous about venturing into health care settings. 

Doctors quickly pivoted in response, introducing telehealth medical appointments that allowed patients to address medical conditions over the phone or via video.  

“In an abundance of safety due to the COVID-19 crisis, many patients opted for virtual rather than face-to-face care,” said Dr. Stephen De Vita, medical director and chief of staff for the Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center area. “As a result, we have invested heavily to honor our patients’ wishes by implementing a virtual care program that allows us to continue to offer access to the care that they want, when and where they need it.” 

But while most health care providers never shut their doors, continuing to see patients in whatever capacity they could, they still saw a significant drop in in-person visits.  

Since then, things have begun to return to normal and people have begun to get more comfortable with the idea of returning to their doctor’s offices, though there is still evidence of wariness to visit a doctor’s office. 

At Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, the Emergency Department’s Medical Director Dr. Bud Lawrence said the department’s volume has not yet returned to pre-COVID levels. 

“Our numbers aren’t where they were prior to COVID, which is very telling that there is some underlying cause of concern about coming in,” Lawrence said. “People are, for some reason, not necessarily coming to the Emergency Department for illnesses or ailments that they would have otherwise prior to COVID.”  

This has brought on concerns among the medical community that patients are delaying care for medical conditions that are time-sensitive, such as heart attacks and strokes, Lawrence added. 

“They are things that we have amazing treatments for and we can do great things, but unless patients come in within the right window, we are severely limited in our ability to help,” Lawrence said. 

UCLA Health, on the other hand, is a bit busier than usual, Dr. Ramya Malchira, lead physician at the UCLA Health Primary and Specialty Care Clinic in the Valencia office, said, noting that many patients are coming back for their annual health maintenance visits. 

“Those that missed their annual physical exams last year are trying to catch up right now, so it’s getting back to normal, which is great … (because) these exams are extremely important,” Malchira said. 

It’s during these visits that patients receive their age-appropriate cancer screening, such as a mammogram or colonoscopy, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol screenings, along with depression and anxiety screenings, which Malchira said are especially important now that these conditions have seen an uptrend during the pandemic.  

For those who are still scared to come in, telemedicine is still an option, and a good starting point, Malchira noted, adding that it allows doctors to do an evaluation and begin care for when they are ready to come in in-person. 

Kaiser, Henry Mayo and UCLA Health all said that there is no non-COVID-related health care that is on hold at their facilities, but that patients may experience a delay, as there is now a backlog in patients accessing care. 

Even so, Lawrence is urging patients to come in for visits, as it is safe to do so, noting, “At this point, there really shouldn’t be any hesitation … (as) we have a growing understanding of COVID, and we have implemented significant safety protocols to make sure that if you need to come and get care that can be done safely.” 

UCLA Health has even seen an increase in patients seeking flu shots earlier than usual, along with a number of patients seeking information regarding COVID-19 booster shots, Malchira said. 

“At Kaiser Permanente, we stress the importance of you and your family seeing your doctor for well visits, acute illness visits and to receive any recommended vaccinations to protect yourselves and to stay as healthy as possible, especially during this upcoming flu season and possible future COVID-19 surges,” added De Vita. 

As of Oct. 10, 78.9% of city of Santa Clarita residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 74.9% of SCV residents had done so, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health data. 

While most SCV residents have gotten vaccinated at this point, Malchira still urges more to get vaccinated.  

“Now’s not the time to be complacent,” Malchira added. “With the holidays coming up, we have to protect ourselves, our neighbors, our families, kids who are not old enough to be vaccinated — it’s really important to get vaccinated.”  

Malchira also urges those who have doubts or questions about the COVID-19 vaccine to reach out to their health care provider to discuss their health conditions.  

As pandemic worries continue to loom over our heads, physicians across the Santa Clarita Valley are urging patients not to put off some of their medical appointments any longer.

Through the pandemic, not only were many elective procedures and appointments put on hold, as hospitals worked to handle the surge in COVID-19 patients, but also many patients were nervous about venturing into health care settings.

Doctors quickly pivoted in response, introducing telehealth medical appointments that allowed patients to address medical conditions over the phone or via video.

“In an abundance of safety due to the COVID-19 crisis, many patients opted for virtual rather than face-to-face care,” said Dr. Stephen De Vita, medical director and chief of staff for the Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center area. “As a result, we have invested heavily to honor our patients’ wishes by implementing a virtual care program that allows us to continue to offer access to the care that they want, when and where they need it.”

But while most health care providers never shut their doors, continuing to see patients in whatever capacity they could, they still saw a significant drop in in-person visits.

Since then, things have begun to return to normal and people have begun to get more comfortable with the idea of returning to their doctor’s offices, though there is still evidence of wariness to visit a doctor’s office.

At Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, the Emergency Department’s Medical Director Dr. Bud Lawrence said the department’s volume has not yet returned to pre-COVID levels.

“Our numbers aren’t where they were prior to COVID, which is very telling that there is some underlying cause of concern about coming in,” Lawrence said. “People are, for some reason, not necessarily coming to the Emergency Department for illnesses or ailments that they would have otherwise prior to COVID.”

This has brought on concerns among the medical community that patients are delaying care for medical conditions that are time-sensitive, such as heart attacks and strokes, Lawrence added.

“They are things that we have amazing treatments for and we can do great things, but unless patients come in within the right window, we are severely limited in our ability to help,” Lawrence said.

UCLA Health, on the other hand, is a bit busier than usual, Dr. Ramya Malchira, lead physician at the UCLA Health Primary and Specialty Care Clinic in the Valencia office, said, noting that many patients are coming back for their annual health maintenance visits.

“Those that missed their annual physical exams last year are trying to catch up right now, so it’s getting back to normal, which is great … (because) these exams are extremely important,” Malchira said.

It’s during these visits that patients receive their age-appropriate cancer screening, such as a mammogram or colonoscopy, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol screenings, along with depression and anxiety screenings, which Malchira said are especially important now that these conditions have seen an uptrend during the pandemic.

For those who are still scared to come in, telemedicine is still an option, and a good starting point, Malchira noted, adding that it allows doctors to do an evaluation and begin care for when they are ready to come in in-person.

Kaiser, Henry Mayo and UCLA Health all said that there is no non-COVID-related health care that is on hold at their facilities, but that patients may experience a delay, as there is now a backlog in patients accessing care.

Even so, Lawrence is urging patients to come in for visits, as it is safe to do so, noting, “At this point, there really shouldn’t be any hesitation … (as) we have a growing understanding of COVID, and we have implemented significant safety protocols to make sure that if you need to come and get care that can be done safely.”

UCLA Health has even seen an increase in patients seeking flu shots earlier than usual, along with a number of patients seeking information regarding COVID-19 booster shots, Malchira said.

“At Kaiser Permanente, we stress the importance of you and your family seeing your doctor for well visits, acute illness visits and to receive any recommended vaccinations to protect yourselves and to stay as healthy as possible, especially during this upcoming flu season and possible future COVID-19 surges,” added De Vita.

As of Oct. 10, 78.9% of city of Santa Clarita residents had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 74.9% of SCV residents had done so, according to Los Angeles County Department of Public Health data.

While most SCV residents have gotten vaccinated at this point, Malchira still urges more to get vaccinated.

“Now’s not the time to be complacent,” Malchira added. “With the holidays coming up, we have to protect ourselves, our neighbors, our families, kids who are not old enough to be vaccinated — it’s really important to get vaccinated.”

Malchira also urges those who have doubts or questions about the COVID-19 vaccine to reach out to their health care provider to discuss their health conditions.

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