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Doctor urges Utahns again not to skip surgeries, medical appointments

FILE -- Rikki Gerrard, a registered nurse, checks Mary Gallegos’ temperature as she arrives to visit her son at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray on Tuesday, June 23, 2020. Intermountain requires all visitors and patients to wear a mask, sanitize their hands and get a temperature check upon arrival. Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY – When COVID-19 first appeared in Utah earlier this year, medical systems delayed non-essential surgeries and nervous patients stayed away from their appointments. Now, doctors are urging people to come back into the office. 

Mountain Star Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mike Baumann says the last time medical procedures were put off, Utahns skipped important, life-saving treatments like chemotherapy. 

A push to get people back to see their doctors seemed to be paying off this summer. 

But with COVID-19 cases spiking in Utah and more of those patients ending up in the hospital, Dr. Baumann says people are not getting checked for other serious conditions until much later. 

“They come in and they’ve had a heart attack and now they have heart failure. People who have had what we call a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung, they’ve put that off,” Baumann says. 

Even if a condition is not deadly, not Dr. Baumann says not getting it checked out can interfere with someone’s quality of life. 

“Inattention to your heart, inattention to your lungs, other issues like kidney problems, if you don’t take care of it your quality of life can be significantly different and, often, in not a very good way,” Baumann says. 

It’s unclear how many people have skipped doctor’s or hospital visits because of COVID-19, but Dr. Baumann says they’ve heard enough stories anecdotally to be concerned. 

If patients have concerns, he recommends calling their doctor or medical facility, who can talk to them about the COVID-19 precautions they are taking. 

Dr. Baumann also says Mountain Star hospitals have enough bed space at the moment for patients with and without COVID-19.