The prolonged outbreak of the new coronavirus has caused behavioral changes in primary clinicians’ patient care and personal lifestyles.
A doctor who runs an internal medicine clinic in Eunpyeong-gu, Seoul, said he always makes sure visiting patients wear a mask. If a patient visits without a mask, his clinic provides a dental mask. If a patient with a fever comes to the clinic, the doctor sees the patient outside. The doctor also tells patients with respiratory symptoms to go to designated public relief hospitals instead.
Not only doctors but patients have changed since the Covid-19 outbreak, the clinic owner noted. In the past, patients used to sit tightly next to each other in waiting. Now, they voluntarily keep the distance from others, he said.
“The clinic's landscape has changed a lot since the Covid-19 crisis,” the clinician said. “Masks and sanitizers are a must, and everyone within the clinic is very careful (not to cause an infection).”
He complained that putting on a mask all day when seeing patients was a daunting task. As the summer is approaching, he felt too warm, stuffy in the nose, and dry in the mouth. Every time a patient leaves, I drink water,” he added.
Another internal medicine specialist who owns a clinic in Gyeonggi Province said he changed the way he sees patients.
He used to check the breathing and the lungs both on the chest and the back. Now he performs auscultation only on the back to avoid facing the patient and tells the patient to look in the other direction when measuring blood pressure.
Yet another clinician in the surgery department said the clinic’s time for reception and preparation of care took longer, and the doctor’s consultation time got shorter. “As the receptionist should check the patient’s fever and history of visits to risky places, the reception takes several times longer than before,” the clinic owner said.
However, the doctor has to see patients in a shorter time because they seem worried about staying at a medical institution for fear of an infection, he said.
“They ask us to do the examination short and give the prescription quickly. Patients used to come with a guardian, but they rarely do so these days.”
Covid-19 has also changed the personal lifestyles of owner clinicians. Almost no owner clinician has dinner with colleagues or friend doctors. They also restrain from playing golf together.
“I made almost no appointment in February and March (when Covid-19 patients were surging). There were some appointments recently, but I don’t want to make another because of the cluster infections in Itaewon,” the surgeon said, referring to the multicultural nightlife district in Seoul, which has emerged as another epicenter recently.
Doctors are cautious (about their movements), he added.
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