Erie County DOH urges importance of regular screenings, wellness checks during pandemic

May 29, 2020

Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says concern and fear of the novel coronavirus is keeping people from getting health care they need and keeping parents from taking their kids in for routine care and routine vaccinations.

The health commissioner said the problem is serious and measurable. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows millions fewer vaccinations taking place during the long lockdown, while doctors are reporting fewer people showing up for well baby visits.

Dr. Gale Burstein said there has been a decrease in primary care, particularly well baby, visits during the pandemic.
Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Burstein said many medical visits and procedures are needed, and doctors are changing offices and office visit procedures to make people feel safe when they visit. She specifically cited cancer screening, because the possible tumor won't wait for the virus to leave.

"Who are uninsured or underinsured that need cancer screening services, the county is still offering our cancer screening program," Burstein said. "And so, we can help pay for those services for uninsured or underinsured, and if they find out they need more diagnostic testing as a result of their screening or they need treatment, again, we can help people enroll in a special Medicaid program that will get those services covered."

Burstein said this is especially important for children. She said there really is no electronic substitute for a doctor seeing a young patient.
"There's a lot that you can pick up just by looking at the child, looking at their behavior," Burstein said, "the dynamics of the child and the parents, they're seeing maybe a lesion or a sore on a child that the parents may not have realized is worrisome, seeing how the child walks. There could be a problem with the gait that the parents may not have picked up."

She said kids are being ground down by the stress of the quarantine and need a break, even a break in a doctor's office.

"We know that kids right now feel isolated at all ages and are suffering from anxiety and a low mood just because they can't see their friends. They can't go to school. They're struggling with online courses. They can't participate in sports. So mental health screenings that their pediatricians can do are really important," Burstein said.