“I just freaked out,” Mr. Hansen said by phone recently, his voice weak and faint. “I should have gone, but I just freaked out.”
Health system administrators are redoubling their efforts to convince patients that it’s safe to come into hospitals and outpatient clinics, even as testing for hospital personnel and patients remains spotty.
“Our goal is to spend almost all our marketing dollars over the next year around the safety of our institution,” said Dr. Stephen Klasko, chief executive of Jefferson Health, a 14-hospital system based in Philadelphia.
Some doctors are helping patients with chronic illnesses rethink aspects of their care.
For the past 21 years, Rob Russo, 45, has been living with a rare type of gastrointestinal cancer that has spread to his liver. For years, he made regular trips from his home in Queens to Dana-Farber in Boston. When the pandemic hit, Mr. Russo’s oncologist helped him transfer much of his care to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York.
At the end of April, Mr. Russo needed a procedure at Weill Cornell to unclog a stent that was keeping his biliary duct open. Before the procedure, Mr. Russo’s mind churned with scenarios: The place was teeming with the virus. What if someone with asymptomatic coronavirus infected him, and he needed to be hospitalized? And what if that meant never seeing his wife again?
“She could drop me off, and it’s the last time we’d see each other,” he said.
Like others interviewed for this story, Mr. Russo found that once he had arrived at the hospital, he felt safe. Multiple safety precautions were taken. The procedure went well. But before the procedure, he was tested for the coronavirus. The test came back positive. Now he’s quarantined on a separate floor in his house.
Mary Anne Oldford, 72, who has an advanced form of sarcoma, a rare cancer, runs an online support group called the Sarcoma Sunflower Brigade. Members make a point of not bringing up Covid-19, but when Ms. Oldford asked them recently to weigh in on their anxiety related to the coronavirus, she got responses that illustrated various shades of sheer terror. One woman told the group that every time she has to go in for a scan, or blood work, “I have a borderline meltdown.”