PONTIAC, Mich. (WXYZ) — At Trinity Health Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, Chair of the Emergency Medicine Dr. Rahul Mehta is one of two physicians who penned a letter to the community titled 'We have never seen people neglecting their personal health care as much as they are right now.'
In it, they urged more proactive care, saying “Though health care deferral is an issue that predates the COVID-19 pandemic, the problem is much worse now than it was just three years ago.”
“It’s gotten better since the height of the pandemic when people were truly afraid of coming to the emergency department,” Dr. Mehta said. “People delayed stroke care, delayed cardiac care. I remember stories in the early days of the pandemic of people staying home with active chest because they were afraid of coming to the ER.”
Dr. Mehta says the pandemic may have caused some people to delay routine checkups and visits to the doctor. Now more than 3 years after the pandemic began, the ER has seen more patients with chronic heart disease leading to heart attacks and strokes. Much of which could’ve been avoided with preventative care.
“What this has caused is an easily correctable event now becomes not so easily correctable, and it impedes their long term care and well being,” Dr. Mehta said.
Dr. Mehta urges people to resume regular visits to primary care physicians, who also report seeing less patients in recent years.
“What I've seen is a lot of people haven't come in in the last two to three years,” said Dr. Asha Shajahan, Medical Director of Community Health at Corewell Health Beaumont Grosse Pointe. “We’re seeing a lot of problems. We’re seeing cancers that are being found at a much later stage, we’re seeing advanced sugar problems, high blood pressure.”
Dr. Shajahan urges people not to delay getting blood work and cancer screenings like mammograms and colonoscopies, even though they may encounter a backlog when trying to schedule.
“My advice is just go ahead and get it scheduled, it’s a routine screening,” Dr. Shajahan said. ”Even if it’s 3 months from now or 4 months from now, it’s better to get it done at that time than not at all.”
Many Metro Detroiters that 7 Action News spoke to say their trips to the doctor have resumed since the pandemic started, or never changed to begin with.
“Yes, I have been going to the doctors probably more now that I'm doing it in person,” said Kate Rybicki who just came from a blood draw.
“I usually go once a year, I try to stay on top of it,” said Joseph Bruglio.
“I haven't missed anything, but I also have good healthcare through work so that plays into it for people,” added Chris Langrill.
Besides COVID, rising costs have played a role in the delay of health care, according to a recent Gallup Poll. In that poll, 38% of people reported having delayed health care in 2022 due to the cost. That’s the largest amount on record for the poll, which began in 2001. Doctors hope as the effects of the pandemic wane, more regular visits will resume.
“I'm hoping in the next year or two we will get back to quote on quote ‘normal’ when it comes to people seeing their physicians and getting their screening tests, but we’ll have to wait and see,” Dr. Shajahan said.