To combat widespread reductions in healthcare use amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Florida Hospital Association launched a public awareness campaign.
The “Your Health Matters” campaign encourages Floridians not to delay elective surgeries, check-ups, ER visits and health screenings due to fears concerning the coronavirus.
“The term ‘elective,’ I think, can be a little misleading,” said FHA President and CEO Mary Mayhew.
“It’s not a procedure that isn’t necessary. It’s a procedure that can be scheduled, but it can’t be delayed for months and months and that’s what we’re seeing right now.”
The multimedia campaign includes TV, radio, print and digital ads. It began in Tallahassee and Pensacola and has expanded to other markets including Fort Myers, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Gainesville and Jacksonville.
The Atlantic’s COVID Tracking Project shows that in about the past two weeks, hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Florida have increased 30%.
Mayhew said that while COVID-19 related hospitalizations are currently on the rise, fewer Floridians overall are seeking timely medical care of all varieties.
“We know that cancer hasn’t gone away, that our heart attacks have not been eliminated,” said Mayhew.
“What our hospitals have seen over the last many months is that when individuals do eventually come in, they’re sicker. They’re disease may have progressed. So we are absolutely out there telling the public that their health matters, that our hospitals care and are safe and ready.”
Another goal of the campaign is to assure Floridians that hospitals and medical offices are taking the necessary steps to best reduce risks of exposure to COVID-19.
" When we think about where we were back in March and April; not having appropriate access to both the type of and volume of personal protective equipment like masks, gloves, gowns, we’ve come a long way,” said Mayhew.
An FHA news release announcing the campaign cites data from the Health Care Cost Institute finding that in August colonoscopies were down by about 30% compared to last year and that mammogram screenings were down by about 20%. Pap smears were down by about 10%.
Although it’s not a primary goal of the multimedia campaign, an increase in patients returning for routine care and elective surgeries will also help healthcare systems financially.
“You’ve got to be able to fund your operations and between the lost revenue for the weeks that they were not able to support those scheduled procedures and services and the incredible cost associated with purchasing the personal protective equipment: the masks, the gloves, the gowns, the increased cost of staffing, we’re talking billions of dollars in expense,” said Mayhew.
She notes that while the federal CARES Act has helped, there’s still a significant gap between costs incurred and federal funding received.
“At the end of the day it isn’t solely about the hospital’s bottom line. It’s about their ability to care and meet the needs of their communities.”
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