“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.” — Rumi

As a telehealth doctor these days, I’ve come to realize that treating a laceration or heart failure or doing an abdominal exam for a sore belly can’t be done virtually. Folks are appropriately trying to avoid unnecessary outside contacts, but some situations in medicine need the human touch and a face-to-face visit.

A month or so ago when we ramped up our telehealth program, my fellow clinicians and I spent an enormous amount of effort talking people down from the COVID-19 anxiety cliff. There was such fear of the unknown.

While the pandemic is by no means over, we must also focus on care of acute and chronic medical problem, which may be life threatening. We look forward to seeing our patients in our clinics again very soon.

The University of Texas Medical Branch’s carefully planned, coordinated, evidence-based roll-out is increasing clinical services and face-to-face availability for our patients.

Crucial safety measures have been guided by medical branch leadership, medical and administrative staff, the Galveston County Public Health Department, the governor and other entities.

We want you to feel safe returning to our clinics. At our clinics, you’ll find:

• Social distancing

• Fewer and distanced chairs in waiting rooms

• Limited number of patients/providers in clinic

• Virtual check-in process

• No walk-in visits

• Screening patients 48 hours before visit and at time of visit

• Limited visitor policy

• Screen and mask staff, patients and visitors at the door

• Frequent and thorough cleaning of clinic spaces

Patients can work with us to achieve the goals of more face-to-face visits by calling first so you get the most personalized care based on your symptoms. You can call our 24/7 Access Center/Nurse Triage Line at 800-917-8906.

Continue using telehealth and urgent care visits with a provider by phone from the comfort of your own home when appropriate, but use your best judgment and seek face-to-face care when that is what you need. We’ll direct you to the location that will meet your exact needs.

You can be assured that those with upper respiratory symptoms have a dedicated, specialized location, minimizing the COVID-19 risk for others. All patients and staff are screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before entering clinics, hospitals and testing facilities.

Everyone entering a medical branch clinic or hospital is required to wear a medical-grade face mask, perform hand hygiene and adhere to social distancing to safeguard against the spread of the virus. We continue rigorous cleaning throughout our facilities. We’ve installed clear shields and rearranged public areas to keep people safe.

You need to know that our emergency rooms in Galveston, League City, Angleton and Clear Lake remain open, for all types of emergencies. If you have a medical emergency, seek care. Never allow fear of a virus to prevent you from getting the lifesaving care you need.

The medical branch remains dedicated to the highest quality, most compassionate and evidence-based care anywhere. Don’t defer seeking urgent or acute care today because you worry that seeing your health care provider may put you at risk of COVID-19.

Dr. Victor S. Sierpina is the WD and Laura Nell Nicholson Family Professor of Integrative Medicine and Professor of Family Medicine at UTMB.

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