People skipping checkups, testing cause for concern: Saskatchewan Medical Association

With the COVID-19 pandemic top of mind for many people most of the year, the Saskatchewan Medical Association is concerned about people who may not be up to date on routine medical appointments.

The association’s president, Barb Konstantynowicz, says its too early to determine just how big of an impact the pandemic is having on people who are sick or who are getting sick with things other than COVID-19.

“What is COVID-related because people weren’t able to get that emergent or urgent care — or they chose not to seek out that care because they didn’t want to… trouble the system?” Konstantynowicz asked.

“Time will tell us what those numbers are.”

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The Alberta Medical Association conducted a survey, checking in with people in that province about this very issue. The results revealed 34 per cent were avoiding or delaying seeing their family physician and 21 per cent were putting off a specialist visit.

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While the Saskatchewan Medical Association has not done a similar study, Konstantynowicz, a family physician herself, expects the results would be similar.

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“We do worry about those cases where people are reluctant,” she said. “Finding things sooner rather than later… usually means better outcomes.”

Read more: Pandemic worsened gaps in care, led to 30% fewer cancer diagnoses: Alberta doctor

The Canadian Cancer Society is concerned as well.

In a typical year, an estimated 6,000 people in Saskatchewan receive cancer diagnoses.

“We know that delays in diagnoses are having serious impacts,” Paula Roberts, the Canadian Cancer Society’s executive vice-president of brand marketing, communications and digital, told Global News.

“While those numbers are very sobering, what we need to be able to stress at this time is that people should not hesitate to have symptoms looked at or diagnosed by their doctor,” she said.

Read more: Saskatchewan doctors providing virtual appointments amid novel coronavirus concerns

Konstantynowicz said that many family physicians, like other health-care workers, have stepped up to help with the COVID-19 response in the province.

In these changing times, everyone has to adapt, she said, and when it comes to test results, no news does not necessarily mean good news anymore.

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The entire system is strained and there are areas that are becoming backlogged, she noted.

Konstantynowicz wants patients to know that family physicians are still there for them and are finding new ways to deliver services both in office and virtually.

“Try to seek out care and trust your instincts,” she said. “You know your body best.”

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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