In the age of COVID-19, we’ve recently had several patients apologize for seeking medical care for non-COVID-19 related issues.

They feel like when they seek care, they are using up an appointment that could have been used by a more severely ill person. They believe that all providers must be slammed with patients, and appointments are a scare resource they shouldn’t use.

While our regional COVID-19 cases do continue to climb, all of the local clinics in Walla Walla (Providence, Walla Walla Clinic, and Family Medical Center) still have the ability to care for non-COVID-19 related health concerns.

As you’ve probably heard, COVID-19 can be particularly severe for individuals with pre-existing conditions. So it is important to make sure that those conditions are under control and stay in good health.

Foregoing care entirely can be a gamble. We do not want any patients to suffer health consequences because of fear or misconceptions about COVID-19.

Because most providers are discouraging “routine” check-ups, preventive screenings and wellness visits, it may actually be easier to schedule an appointment with your doctor now than it was prior to COVID-19. That visit may just have a different feel, as we are encouraging use of video or telephone visits for non-urgent matters that don’t absolutely require a face to face visit.

When patients call the clinics for an appointment, nurses can help you determine if it would be best to meet face-to-face or via video or phone.

A number of my patients have used video or phone visits to see me and it has worked well. It’s obviously different than a face to face visit, but there are advantages — they aren’t exposed to potential contagious illness by going out in the community, and if doctors are running behind (which my patients can relate to) at least they are waiting in the comfort of their home.

Things that can help a video or phone visit run more smoothly include: testing the video app prior to meeting with your provider; making sure you have decent lighting if using video, ensuring you have good reception; and if you are able, collecting some basic vital signs like weight, temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar (if diabetic).

All of the medical groups in town have the ability to meet with you via video or phone to take care of non-urgent issues.

The role of our medical community is to take care of you, regardless of your diagnosis.

We have time for you and we want to assist you. Your needs are no less important to us than those of a patient with COVID-19.

And if you do have an emergent issue such as symptoms worrisome for a stroke or heart attack — you can and should be evaluated at the emergency room as soon as possible. Don’t delay.

Know that if you do need to be seen in person, we are doing our best to screen and separate people with symptoms worrisome for COVID-19 from those without symptoms of COVID-19.

Please stay safe and healthy.

Dr. Bob Stoddard is a family practitioner with Providence Family Medicine.