Before the coronavirus pandemic, going to hospital or your local GP for routine medical screenings or check-ups was a straightforward process. However, the pandemic is causing some Victorians to delay seeking what could be important and even life-saving medical assistance.
Author: VicHealth works with health promotion experts to create a Victoria where everyone can enjoy better health and wellbeing.
Any coronavirus information mentioned is accurate at the time this article was first published (24 September 2020). For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus restrictions, please visit the source: www.coronavirus.vic.gov.au
Statistics showed the second coronavirus wave caused a significant drop in the number of patients attending hospitals for treatment for heart attacks, strokes and essential cancer screenings.
In September 2020, the number of people seeking emergency medical treatment for stroke was down 24% on the same time the previous year, while heart attacks were down by 18%. There had also been a 30% drop in reports of the five most common cancers.
While we must continue to follow restrictions to keep everyone safe, it’s important not to let the pandemic dictate how you treat your own health. Delaying medical appointments, such as cancer screenings and routine checks for conditions like diabetes, can have serious consequences for your health in the long run.
In this article, we look at how you can take care of your health during the pandemic.
Be Healthy was created by VicHealth to provide helpful tips and advice on how you and your family can stay healthy. You can read more Be Healthy articles here.
Visiting hospitals in Victoria
There have been temporary changes to the way hospitals operate across the state to help protect patients and staff from coronavirus.
However, hospitals are still open for Victorians seeking medical care should you need it. It’s important to remember healthcare workers are there to look after you and hospitals have processes in place to keep you safe from coronavirus.
The Department of Health and Human Services has a full breakdown of current restrictions in hospitals which can answer many of the common questions when it comes to going to hospital or supporting someone in hospital.
The Cancer Council has developed a thorough online FAQ resource addressing questions about living with cancer during the pandemic.
There is also general advice available to help with early detection and screening as well as checking for signs of skin cancer. It’s vital to undergo cancer screenings if they’re due, and if you notice any changes, speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Heart attacks, according to the Heart Foundation, are associated with symptoms such as chest discomfort or pain, which can spread to your arms, neck, jaw or back.
A heart attack requires urgent emergency treatment and if you suspect someone is having one, call triple zero (000) immediately.
The Heart Foundation has more information on what causes a heart attack and how it is treated here.
You can also download their Heart Attack Warning Signs Action Plan, which can help identify signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Strokes can cause serious disability or even death which is why getting fast treatment can be lifesaving. Knowing what to look for when someone is having a stroke is crucial. Remember the acronym FAST:
- F for Face – has their face drooped?
- A for Arms – can they lift both arms?
- S for Speech – are they slurring their words, can they understand you?
- T for Time – time is critical call triple zero (000) straight away
The Stroke Foundation provides detailed information on strokes, from what they are, recognising the signs and symptoms and what to do if you or someone you love is having one.
The pandemic has been a challenging time for many, with a recent VicHealth survey showing that more Victorians are feeling socially disconnected from friends and family.
It’s ok to not be ok – there is help out there and talking to someone about what you’re going through can make a big difference.
Here are some simple mental health tips:
- Maintain perspective (this is temporary, the situation is improving)
- Try to stick to a daily routine for a sense of normalcy
- Ensure that you maintain a healthy diet and get plenty of sleep and exercise
- Stay connected with family and friends
- Seek support if needed:
For more advice, check out the Be Healthy blog on how to look after your mental health during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s important during the pandemic that people managing diabetes continue their normal routine of medical care and stay connected with their support networks.
While resources like telehealth consultations can be used, patients may still need to engage in face-to-face appointments. As credentialled diabetes educator Cheryl Steel explains, it is still safe to visit health care professionals during coronavirus.
Diabetes Australia has also developed the Diabetes - Be Healthy campaign - to give you information, support and tips to help people with diabetes stay well during the coronavirus pandemic.
Don't be afraid to call triple zero (000)
It’s crucial that if you find yourself or someone else in an emergency medical situation that you don’t hesitate in calling triple zero (000). If you haven’t made an emergency call before, it’s worth pre-reading Ambulance Victoria’s advice on what you need to do when you call.
Remember however that calling an ambulance should be reserved for emergencies only, so if it is something less urgent, consider these options:
- Speak to your GP
- Contact a relative or friend
- Call Nurse on Call on 1300 60 60 24
- Visit betterhealth.vic.gov.au
Tips for seeking medical assistance during the pandemic
- It’s important to prioritise your own health. If you feel that you require medical attention, don’t feel guilty or worried about seeking the help you need.
- GP clinics, hospitals and emergency departments are still operating across the state to provide all types of medical care, not only to coronavirus patients. There are health practices in place to protect health care workers and patients from the spread of coronavirus.
- Monitor any changes in your physical state or routine which may be symptoms of medical issues such as cancer, heart attack or stroke and don’t delay seeing your doctor if necessary.
- Don’t hesitate to call triple zero (000) in an emergency medical situation.