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“The time to seek treatment is now,” said Dr. Savvas Poulos, an orthopedic hand specialist from the Valley Baptist Orthopedic Center of Excellence. “There are people who are suffering from joint pain, from knee or hip pain, but due to the pandemic have decided not to seek medical attention, because they are fearful of walking into a medical office.”

The COVID-19+ pandemic has changed many things in everyday life over the past year-and-a-half, but one thing that remains the same is the need for overall health and physical wellness for a well-lived life.  

Another thing that remains the same is patient safety at Valley Baptist. Since the start of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, Valley Baptist Health System has implemented safety protocols to ensure the safety of its patients, staff, and physicians. In fact, earlier this year, both Valley Baptist Medical Center – Harlingen and Valley Baptist Medical Center – Brownsville were recognized with the Leapfrog Hospital Safety Grade “A.” The letter grade is a top marking for patient safety in the areas of minimal to no errors, minimal to no injuries, accidents, and/or infections in the line of patient care.

“We have one of the most comprehensive orthopedic programs and experienced orthopedic care providers in South Texas,” said Dr. Joseph Tejan, trauma orthopedic surgeon at the Valley Baptist Orthopedic Center of Excellence. “We have highly-trained specialists that deliver excellent care in both non-surgical and surgical treatments. Our team covers everything from hip and knee replacement, hand procedures, trauma procedures, sports medicine, joints, shoulder, foot, spine, and orthopedic, pediatric care.”

While the availability of care has remained intact at Valley Baptist and many other healthcare providers, patients needing treatment have been anxious about stepping into a medical office and hospitals for fear of contracting COVID-19+. Many have made the decision to forego care and have stayed away from medical treatment – until some sort of a medical emergency arises, then seek care at that point.  

“There’s no reason for [patients] to be in pain this time of year; there’s plenty of safe options,” said Heather Smith, family nurse practitioner (FNP) and sports medicine specialty care provider at the Valley Baptist Orthopedic Center of Excellence. “Even with physical therapy – home health [agencies] are offering services in the safety and comfort of patients’ homes. However, patients need to come to see us sooner rather than later if they are suffering from pain. Whether [the joint] has an injury or doesn’t have an injury, don’t wait to seek treatment.”

According to Dr. Tejan, there are major concerns that arise when patients prolong receiving needed medical treatment.   

“If you have a fracture and it gets displaced due to the lack of medical attention, the fracture may start to heal on its own. That is not good. If it heals on its own, then you may end up with a permanent disability in certain situations. Especially if the joint surfaces are involved, the deformities can be severe,” added Dr. Tejan.

“Most people come to the doctor because of pain. Increasing severity in pain without remittance or not getting any better is a major symptom that something is wrong musculoskeletally, and this needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Poulos.

 It is understandable that there will be some hesitation and some level of anxiety for patients to walk into any clinical setting for doctor appointments and procedures. Valley Baptist recognizes this and is at the forefront of ensuring patients’ safety while in its care. The hospital staff takes all the necessary precautions and practice safe care, such as wearing face masks, frequent and proper hand washing, and social distancing – to protect all patients. 

Another way Valley Baptist Orthopedic Center of Excellence healthcare providers advise will ensure further community safety – is getting fully vaccinated for COVID19+.

“[Those who are not vaccinated] should seriously consider getting the vaccine; take the precautions,” added Dr. Poulos. “We’re going to deal with this COVID as a fact of life, and we’re going to take care of everyone. I don’t think the patient should be scared. They should come in for the care they need and take care of themselves.”

No matter how life-altering COVID-19+ is and how everyone’s lives have irrevocably changed, life still goes on. There are still many uncertainties and many unknowns, but many healthcare institutions like Valley Baptist Health System are evolving their line of defense to provide the best level of care in a safe clinical environment.

Faith Chua