Maine Doctors Gear Up For Resuming Office Visits
The loosening of rules under Gov. Janet Mills’ latest order will allow hospitals and doctors to begin re-scheduling procedures and visits postponed over the last six weeks.
Dr. Michael Duffy is senior medical executive at Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland. "So we are in the process of prioritizing patients' needs so that those that need care most, most immediately, are welcomed back," he says, "but doing so in a manner that's going to be safe for the patients and safe to staff."
That means continuing to have separate sites where patients with suspected COVID-19 can be assessed or tested, screening everyone entering Mercy for symptoms or fever, and making sure everyone is wearing a mask before entering a facility.
For now, the ban on most visitors remains in effect. "The support of friends and family is a critical feature in the care of the patient and we fully appreciate that," Duffy says. "But, in the meantime, we're going to look for means of accommodating that, accommodating the patient through telephone connection, tele-video connection with friends and family so that they can have that support until that time when we're able to loosen restrictions."
Duffy says that change could become permanent. "Providers are looking at their schedules and asking, 'Could this visit occur by video or telephone using the patients mobile device or home computer, and might that create a safer way to interact with that patient, without asking that patient to come in?'" he says.
Duffy says that might create a new physician-patient paradigm. He says not only will it be safer in cases dealing with an infectious agent, it might also simply prove more convenient for patients.
Some elective surgeries and doctor visits can resume Friday, as Governor Janet Mills' latest order takes effect.