A day in the life of doctor during the coronavirus pandemic

“Right now, in the middle of June in northern Lancaster County, we are appreciating a huge spike."

  • Keira McGuire

Dr. Pamela Taffera-Deihl remembers the first time she heard about COVID-19.

“I can think of my neighbor saying to me, what do you think about all this stuff? Is this going to be a big deal? And admittedly, I sort of blew it off,” she recalls. “But I remember the realization came to me when I made the statement: ‘the loss of life in this pandemic will be immense and the world after this pandemic will be different than we knew it before.’”

Taffera-Deihl is the medical director of the hospitalist team at WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. She says a lot has changed in a short amount of time regarding how to care for COVID-19 patients.

“In the beginning of the crisis, we were on a learning curve and we were trying to understand what they would look like. Would we get more patients? How sick would they be? Would we have the resources to take care of them?” she said. “So, we had to learn how to take care of something that we had never encountered before.”

Taffera-Deihl said she was expecting a surge of COVID-19 admissions in April and May, but that did not happen. Instead, she said WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital is seeing a spike in admissions now.

“We’re experiencing exactly what we predicted, which is a wave that came up after the loosening of the guidelines,” she said. “Right now, in the middle of June in northern Lancaster County, we are appreciating a huge spike.”

She said the hospital is also seeing an increase in patients with chronic conditions that were afraid to come to the hospital in the beginning of the pandemic.

“They did not want to come in contact with the coronavirus. So that interruption in care of chronic comorbid states has led to those comorbid states getting out of control. So, whether it be because they have trouble with their heart or congestive heart failure or a stroke, or their diabetes has gone out of control … they’ve come to the hospital sicker now than they would have had they accessed care earlier,” she said.

In addition to an increase in patients with COVID-19 and those with chronic conditions, Dr. Taffera-Deihl said the hospital is also seeing more patients suffering from substance abuse and mental health conditions.

Her biggest concern right now is that people are beginning to feel too relaxed about COVID-19.

“If folks are getting away from masking or handwashing or social distancing, they’re going to come in contact with the coronavirus and unfortunately have a higher likelihood of being admitted to the hospital,” Dr. Taffera-Deihl said. “And if we do not continue social distancing, hand hygiene and — very, very, very importantly — the masking, we’re going to continue to see this increase and we’ll see an increase in morbidity and mortality as well.”

Transforming Health is a partnership of WITFWellSpan Health and Capital Blue Cross. Transforming Health is solely responsible for all content.

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