Viewpoint: Providing healthcare in a pandemic  

By Dr. Mark Kandutsch 

On behalf of the entire MDI Hospital team, I’d like to thank you, our patients and community for your patience throughout this pandemic—and for the vital role you play in the fight against COVID-19. Masks, distancing, staying home when asked to and staying vigilant about your health status are measures that have kept our community remarkably safe. We want to be sure you know that we see you and your efforts, and we appreciate your care and concern.  

Since the novel coronavirus arrived in the U.S., the COVID-19 pandemic has affected virtually every one of us. Lives grievously lost, millions suffering from the disease, livelihoods ruined, social relationships disrupted…almost everything familiar has been altered in some way. In response, each of us has made adjustments—and sacrifices—for the sake of each other.  

In a year where so much has changed, the way we deliver care has been no exception. Healthcare providers bear a particular burden in times like these, and not merely in terms of our frontline work to assist patients. Those of us who serve you in MDI Hospital’s clinical settings have also had to adapt rapidly to changing requirements caused by the pandemic. This process will be ongoing, and I wanted to reach out to our community to explain some of the changes you will certainly have noticed and to acknowledge the inconveniences and challenges that may result.  

Before the pandemic, it was unimaginable that a family member could not accompany a sick patient into the clinic or emergency room or visit an elder loved one in assisted living. Safety protocols restricting visitors; having patients await appointments in the parking lot instead of the waiting room; requiring patients’ masks during examinations and procedures; the increased use of remote ‘telehealth’ consultations…these can create barriers to our hospital’s ideal of patient-centered care.  

Please understand that our staff is continuously adapting to a changing landscape of infection risk. As we strive to keep the virus out of our hospital and primary care clinics for your safety, we must ask those experiencing possible COVID-19 symptoms to be seen in a temporary outside facility. These restrictions are not ideal from any point of view and they are not things we would do by preference—yet they reflect the fact that, above all, we are committed to the safety of our patients and our community.  

  A new set of changes has come into play with the long-awaited availability of COVID-19 vaccines on Mount Desert Island. We know first-hand the challenges of having only a few hundred doses per week or less available while thousands in our community are eager to receive the vaccine. We, too, want more doses of vaccine for our community, and we understand how hard the continued wait can be. Despite these challenges, we remain hopeful that vaccine supply will begin to increase in the coming months.  

Dr. Mark Kandutsch specializes in family medicine at Mount Desert Island Hospital. 

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