Q: Is it safe to reschedule my colonoscopy?
Cindy Hara, director of perioperative Services, Maui Health Services: If you had to postpone a colonoscopy or other routine health screenings due to COVID-19, you’re not alone. Since March, routine cancer screenings have decreased by as much as 94 percent nationwide. Now that Hawaii’s coronavirus cases are lower and the state has essentially “flattened the curve,” health care providers are available and prepared to safely take care of you — it’s time to schedule that appointment.
It’s important to keep up with your routine health screenings. Experts have warned that potentially dangerous cancers could go undetected if people don’t get their regular checks. Screening can help detect cancer early, before it grows and becomes more difficult to treat. Please call your doctor and ask about the screenings you need to schedule. The sooner, the better.
Coronavirus is a concern, but so much more has been learned about how to safely prevent exposure to the virus, and precautions are in place to keep you safe. If you’re concerned about safety at the doctor’s office, ask what precautions they are taking to protect you from COVID-19. Be prepared to follow new procedures, such as waiting in your car, answering a survey about your health, or getting a temperature check at the door.
At Maui Memorial Medical Center, outpatient and elective procedures, like colonoscopies, are being scheduled again, and the hospital is following strict safety protocols to keep patients and employees safe. This includes requiring all patients to have a negative COVID-19 test prior to their procedure. Patients who come in through the ER are given a test prior to being admitted as well.
Other safeguards include symptom and temperature screening at the door, universal masking (all patients, employees and providers are screened and provided an appropriate mask before being allowed to enter), visitor policies to limit traffic in and out of the facility, frequent enhanced cleaning and disinfecting, added spacing in waiting rooms and public seating areas to allow for social distancing, additional sanitizing stations installed on each floor, and, should a patient be under suspicion or test positive, we have designated patient care areas and negative-pressure isolation rooms to protect other patients and employees from being exposed.
Our team is highly trained and well equipped to care for all of our patients, while protecting themselves and those around them.
Nobody’s eager to get a colonoscopy, and you may be reluctant to come in to the doctor due to concerns about COVID-19, but it’s important to reschedule now that it’s safe to do so. Cancer doesn’t stop during a pandemic, and neither should your routine health screenings.
Q: Is it safe to have my baby at the hospital right now? What steps is Maui Memorial taking to protect me and my baby from COVID-19?
Dr. Stacy Ammerman, OB/GYN, Maui Lani Physicians & Surgeons: Even with the presence of coronavirus on our island, I still believe that the hospital is the safest place for pregnant women to give birth. Maui Memorial has made many changes to make sure that the hospital is as safe as possible for mothers and babies.
First, labor, delivery and postpartum are kept completely isolated from the rest of the hospital, with our doctors, nurses and staff rarely having to visit other areas of the hospital, except when our patient needs dictate, like the ED or post-surgery units.
All patients and their support people are screened for symptoms and temperature prior to being admitted to the unit, and they are both asked to wear a mask while in the hospital, including during labor when possible.
And of course, the ward has never been cleaner, because staff is being extra vigilant about cleaning and disinfecting every surface and tool.
After birth, the baby will stay in the mother’s room, not in the nursery. We are also limiting visitors, so that each mother only will be allowed to have one support person with her during labor and throughout her time in the hospital. Limiting the number of people who come into the hospital from the community can significantly reduce the chance of spreading infection.
We also have converted three rooms into COVID-safe areas that are separated from the rest of the ward and equipped with HEPA air filters. That means if any woman comes to the hospital, who is suspected or confirmed COVID-positive, she will be able to labor, deliver and receive postpartum care safely and in isolation. If you are worried about safety during labor and delivery, please don’t hesitate to talk about your concerns with your doctor. For more information about new safety protocols at Maui Memorial Medical Center,visit mauihealth.org/safe.
* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on the first and third Thursdays of the month. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients. To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealth.org/healthwise.