SCORES OF ALASKANS SAY THEIR HEALTH IS BEING COMPROMISED
Must Read Alaska reached out to readers last week to hear from them about the urgent and non-urgent medical needs they have, ones that are not being met due to the mandated limits on non-emergency procedures and surgeries, and the confusion and refusal-of-service they have experienced.
It wasn’t the plastic surgery postponements that caught this writer’s attention. It was messages from doctors who are involved in the detection and treatment of breast cancer.
In any given month, 45-90 women in Alaska are diagnosed with breast cancer, doctors told MRAK under condition of anonymity. None wants the state Department of Health and Social Services to mess with their licenses.
Yet, in the past 30 days, only five women have been diagnosed by one clinic that routinely diagnoses 50 a month — a 90 percent drop in breast cancer detection.
It’s for myriad reasons, the doctors tell MRAK: Some primary care doctors have gone strictly to telemedicine, or patients are afraid to go to the doctor, or they are not sure that breast exams are urgent.
Maybe it’s something that can wait a few months, women think. It’s not a pleasant procedure, so it’s an easy one to brush off.
Or it’s because they are over 50, and there are no mammograms allowed for those over 50 during Health Mandate #5.
That means there are 85 women in Alaska walking around right now with undetected breast cancer — cancer that should have been diagnosed in the past month, but wasn’t.
Here are just a few of the situations readers described to MRAK about their personal medical conditions:
“The virus has all the surgery places messed up, for sure. Took an extra week to get a necessary port put in.”
“I know someone that also had to wait at least a week, and it delayed the start of treatment for a severe leukemia. They should have gone out of state for treatment, but because of all of this they had to stay and hope for the best here.”
“My husband needs medical attention like some diagnostic help with joints, and my sister-in-law is unable to find a doctor to get her heart meds refilled.”
“The day I was to have cataract surgery, I was contacted by the eye center and told they were shut down by Berkowitz. They tried to get it reversed, but it fell on deaf ears. This is a eye center, and their clients do not have elective surgery. We need them. Everyone working there was very upset including the staff and docs. They were told in would likely be July before they would be able to open agin. My eyesight is weekly getting worse and worse, it’s affecting my daily life. But if I want to buy booze, vape or get home supplies, those are all open for business.
“Like needing surgery was set to have and then canceled but in extreme pain.”
“Like dental surgery getting cancelled leaving me for a month with broken molars, live exposed nerves and having to have a liquid diet just to eat?”
“I have a friend who has stage 2 prostate cancer and ANMC canceled his surgery. Does that count?”
“Had my routine colonoscopy screening canceled till June 15. How many will die because of missed routine screenings?”
“My surgery center put staff on 1/2 time because there was nothing for them to do.”
“I have MS destroying my nerves and cannot get treatment. Additionally, I have been referred for a hysterectomy and it could be cancer. Having beat cancer once, it’s rather horrifying to not be able to get the care I need.”
“So, I had surgery planned for May 6 for a softball size uterine fybroid. It’s been cancelled and no reschedule date given. This fybroid has caused me to be extremely anemic to the point of almost needing a blood transfusion. I’m constantly in pain, I bleed heavily for weeks. I’ve changed my diet and am taking meds, but this still affects my daily life. I’ve had to leave work due to being in such pain that I can’t work and am in tears. Because I’m taking meds and have changed my diet my hemoglobin levels have gone up, they are still low, but they are not low enough for my surgery to not be considered necessary not elective. So I take my meds and eat healthy and stay in pain, or I quit taking meds and let my levels drop to the point of it becoming a ‘necessity.'”
“Have the people you listed asked for a letter of necessity from their Drs? Tell them to be ‘pushy,’ and to not take no as an answer. My surgery center was empty. I’ll removal the staples myself-not worth the risk to go in. I got a medical staple remover from a dog mushing store.”
“I’m a doctor and I’ve just furloughed myself.”
The State’s Chief Medical Officer Anne Zink has established a survey to see how Alaska families are doing. If you have a medical issue that you cannot have resolved due to state health mandates, or if you are having trouble getting primary care because of the current COVID-19 hunker-down orders from your community, you can share your thoughts with Dr. Zink.
Alaskans who would like to respond to the survey can text “AKFAMILY” to 907-269-0344 or access the surveys at the MCH Epidemiology Unit website at http://dhss.alaska.gov/dph/wcfh/Pages/mchepi/.
Not comfortable giving your opinion to the State of Alaska? Send a confidential note to [email protected] or add your comments below.