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COVID Impact: Doctors Say Delayed Care For Other Conditions No Longer An Issue, Urge Patients To Book Appointments

NEWARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) -- When the coronavirus pandemic hit, many with other conditions had to delay, stop or change their care.

CBS2's Meg Baker has more on what a new mom and a cancer patient experienced and a message about prevention.

"When Rob basically dropped me off and it was like, 'Okay, see you around the other side,'" Melissa Pietroforte said.

Thirty hours on Zoom is how Pietroforte communicated with her husband, Rob, while in labor last March.

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Out of an abundance of caution some hospitals banned partners. On top of that, hospitals were short staffed with medical professionals who contracted COVID-19. Pietroforte recounted one of the scariest moments being all alone.

"I was in active labor, and I was hitting that red hospital button in the bed, being like, 'I need the doctor. I need the doctor.' It took the doctor two hours to come to my room. This is why you ... this is when you need somebody to go advocate for you," Pietroforte said.


Her husband felt helpless, but said he wouldn't trade the positive outcome -- a year of working from home with their daughter, Parker -- for anything.

"Being there every morning, you know, to watch her wake up and at night for bath time. It has been an mazing first year," Rob Pietroforte said.

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Ovarian cancer survivor Darcie Cimarusti went through chemotherapy and radiation with family by her side, but when the pandemic hit she had to travel to her clinical trials alone. Other important support systems were cut off.

"They have a program where they bring survivors in to meet with patients while they're in treatment. So that survivor was like my lifeline," Cimarusti said. "My heart just broke for thevwomen that I saw coming in for their first chemo completely alone."


Dr. Andy Evens with the Rutgers Cancer Institute says cancer screenings have been significantly impacted.

"If you start to translate those delayed diagnoses that maybe you could catch it early and surgically resect it, and now it might spread, etc.," Evens said.

A recent study reports more than 75% of Americans had some aspect of their health care disrupted due to COVID-19. A public service announcement urges people to keep social distancing, stop medical distancing.

"Seeking care is safe and telemedicine is available," the PSA says, in part.

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Dr. Perry Halkitis, the dean of the Rutgers School of Public Health, says now medical workers know how this virus spreads and what precautions to take.

"At the beginning of the epidemic, things were sort of figured out on the fly, because we didn't know what we were dealing with in terms of the virus. We didn't know how contagious it was, how it was spreading. And so, it created a stress on the health care system that is already stressed," Halkitis said.

So, doctors say book that colonoscopy, book that mammogram, and go to the dentist before complications set in.

New Jersey Hospital Association data for the first nine months of 2020 shows a 27% decline in ER visits, a 20% decline in outpatient visits, and a 9% decrease in admissions.

CBS2's Meg Baker contributed to this report

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