Governor’s orders raise concerns over cancer testing

Coronavirus New Mexico

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – As the outbreak continues, there is a growing concern over the long term effect on New Mexican’s health. The governor ordered all non-essential health procedures to be delayed for three months. Most clinics have responded by postponing routine screenings like mammograms and prostate exams.

Physicians at a number of facilities say they are concerned people may not receive a timely cancer diagnosis if these screening are put off much longer but they feel they have no choice under the governor’s order. However, the governor says she and her health team said high-risk patients will still get these screenings.

“These are some of the challenging risks as we deal with an unprecedented public health emergency,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham. The goal of her order is to reduce exposure to COVID-19 and preserve the supply of PPE. The more patients that are seen the more PPE is used and the faster the supply dwindles.

Most clinics say they are postponing routine screening until June or July. If a patient has a new concern such as a lump or pain, their case is moved to the essential category and they are seen quickly but it’s often routine screenings of someone with no symptoms that reveal cancer.

Some doctors say that is where their concern lies. Weeks can sometimes make a big difference in patient outcomes. The health department secretary addressed those concerns.

“There is guidance on our website when you look at the public health order specifically related to this where we helped physicians, clinics and clinicians make those decisions I think it was fair and well thought out it came from the American College of Surgeons and other associations,” said Kathy Kunkel.

Many say the governor’s health order is vague, leaving a lot of questions. The governor encouraged healthcare providers to reach out if they think the order is too restrictive so they can work together to problem-solve. She says she wants to make sure we don’t create another set of health problems while dealing with this health emergency.

Many clinics and hospitals also say they’ve had to furlough workers because so many of these routine screenings have been canceled. One clinic, RAA imaging says once it resumes, it will offer extended hours so patients won’t have to wait so long to get screened.

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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