Frustration Mounting For People Who Can’t Get In To See Doctor

Mar 11, 2020, 11:54 PM | Updated: Jun 22, 2022, 6:04 pm

SALT LAKE CITY – Health officials described the state’s third case of coronavirus as a good example of how things should work when it comes to identifying and testing for COVID-19. But frustration has been growing among those who are sick but haven’t been able to see a doctor.

“I’ve had a fever, shortness of breath and a pretty bad cough,” said Chris Young, a FedEx employee who has been dealing with the symptoms for days.

He called in sick on Wednesday and went to an urgent care only to find out he wasn’t welcome. A sign at the door advised incoming patients not to enter the clinic if they have the symptoms associated with the novel coronavirus, adding, “FirstMed is unable to treat, test, or diagnose COVID-19.

Young said he isn’t as concerned he has the virus as he is about just being able to see a doctor. But it’s a visit he learned would be much more difficult to make amid fears about the coronavirus.

State health officials have warned from the beginning not to go directly to the hospital or clinic to avoid any potential spread of the virus and so they are not overwhelming healthcare providers.

“I’m out in your parking lot right now. I tried to come, I see a sign that says I can’t come in because of my symptoms,” Young remembers telling the receptionist over the phone.

He called the Utah Coronavirus Information line but was disappointed to get a recorded voice asking him whether he had traveled out of the country or come into contact with anyone with the virus.

The urgent care directed him to another medical center, which pointed him to the emergency room.

“I work at FedEx. I can’t do expensive medical expenses over a cold,” Young said after hearing how expensive his ER visit could be.

He was directed to an Intermountain Healthcare Facility, where an employee told him he needed to download the Connect Care application before he would be able to see a doctor. He made a login account, answered some questions, and then was prompted to pay a fee before he could continue.

“Okay this is ridiculous,” Young said. “What these hospitals are going to need is more data. They need to know if there are sick people out there, not turn them away.”

Young’s experience happened on the same day state officials announced a third person had tested positive for COVID-19 – a man under 60 in Summit County who had traveled to Europe and had “close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 case.” He is currently recovering at home.

“We’re really excited about this case where everything actually went right,” said Dr. Richard Orlandi, a Chief Medical Officer at University of Utah Health.

The man called ahead, notified his healthcare provider of symptoms and travel, and was tested without exposing anyone.

But as Young learned, a visit to the doctor doesn’t go so smoothly for those who haven’t traveled out of the country or come in contact with someone with the virus. Another woman in St. George had a similar experience when she tried to get her 7-year-old son in to see a doctor.

Health officials continue to stress to those with a fever, cough or shortness of breath to call ahead before coming in to be seen.

“If there’s community spread going on, it is important that we slow the spread of it,” said Keegan McCaffrey, an epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health. “We’re really trying to ramp up testing both at our state public health lab and at clinical labs across the state.”

But not everyone has been or will be tested. The state public health lab just began running tests a week ago and tested at least 136 people as of Wednesday afternoon.

“I think it’s a fair concern that the amount of community spread isn’t fully known because of the limited amount of testing,” Orlandi said.

Orlandi said it’s just not possible to do widespread testing right now because it’s a new system for everyone.

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Frustration Mounting For People Who Can’t Get In To See Doctor