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People skipping annual health checks is a Covid-19 side effect

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health (File photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A drop in the number of people getting annual health checks has been noted since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the health minister said.

Kim Wilson told the House of Assembly yesterday that new patient preventive care check-ups in adults under 40 were down by almost a quarter in 2021-22, compared to 2019-20.

MPs also heard that the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute has admitted patients showing “psychotic symptoms” after they contracted the coronavirus despite never being involved with mental health services before.

Ms Wilson said: “A 2021 study conducted by the Urban Institute in the US found that more than one in ten adults elected to delay or not seek at least one type of care.

“A similar percentage of parents delayed or declined to pursue care for their children as well.

“The Health Foundation, based in the UK, found that 6 million so-called ‘missing patients’ did not seek treatment in 2020.

“In Bermuda, a decline in annual health examinations and preventive care, which reduce the risk of disease, was also evident during this current pandemic.”

She explained: “Compared with the pre-Covid fiscal year of 2018-2019, Bermuda has experienced a drop in annual check-ups with new patients.

“In the 18- to 39-year-old demographic, new patient preventive care check-ups plunged an average of 24 per cent between 2019-20 and 2021-22.

“For those between the ages 40 and 64 years old, there was a 14 per cent decline on average in new patient check-ups, while 65-year-olds have remained diligent.”

Ms Wilson said: “A slide in diligence is apparent with mammograms as well, where there was an average decrease of 7 per cent in screenings over the same period.

“This is disturbing in view of the fact that, for the first time in 2020, the WHO identified breast cancer as the most common cancer worldwide.

“These are just two examples in Bermuda. According to the Urban Institute study, the common cause for the reluctance to seek healthcare is due to concerns about patients’ exposure to the coronavirus.

“This is understandable. However, we must reverse the delays in seeking care that may have become normalised over the past two years.

“Young adults need to introduce themselves to annual health checks and make them a habit.

“Children need to be up to date with their schedule of vaccinations to prevent and reduce the spread of disease.

“All of us benefit from preventive screenings that can detect disease early when treatment can be more effective.”

Ms Wilson said that the health ministry “strongly” urged people with known risk factors such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension or relevant family history to contact their doctor or the Hamilton Health Clinic for an appointment.

She added: “Yes, the coronavirus is still here in our community, so the concerns are real, but face masks are required in all healthcare facilities.

“Also, these facilities have established very stringent cleaning processes and work hard to avoid overcrowded waiting rooms.

“Preventive care is essential, and it is critical that we resume good health routines.”

The minister highlighted that it would be “extremely remiss” not to note that Covid-19 has had “arguably, a more significant impact on our mental health”.

Tips from MWI

Kim Wilson, the Minister of Health, said that the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute offered advice for people to help take care of their mental health. They included:

• Be gentle with yourself. We have been living through unprecedented times, and there is no right way to respond to the stressors we have been facing. Experiencing a degree of anxiety is normal.

• Take a break from the news … disconnecting and doing something else can be a good distraction.

• Reconnect with previous interests to instil a degree of normalcy.

• Try to eat a balanced healthy diet, exercise, lessen your alcohol intake, and avoid alcohol and other substances as a “go-to” if feeling stressed.

• Prioritise sleep.

• Try to maintain connections with others – family and friends.

• Focus on what you can control instead of worrying excessively over things you cannot control. Avoid spending too much time on social media.

• Practising mindfulness can be beneficial; this can be a simple addition to your day.

• Practise gratitude. Pause and reflect on what we remain grateful for along with reminding ourselves what might be going well, despite the pandemic.

• Take things at your own pace – what works for some may not work for others.

• Take a look around. We are living on an island of exceptional beauty. Absorbing the vibrant colours of the ocean and getting out into nature can be very restorative for mental health.

Ms Wilson said: “Reflecting on the journey we have been on, let us be kinder to ourselves and to one another; it can positively impact our own mental health.”

Ms Wilson said: “The Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute indicates the now prolonged nature of the pandemic has led to many challenges for the Bermuda community.

“In addition to the fear of being exposed to Covid-19 or the ramifications of infection, MWI has also seen some older adults experience loneliness at having reduced family contact and missing out on events and celebrations.

“For the frontline workers, burnout and exhaustion have become a genuine concern.”

She told MPs: “MWI has seen a number of inpatient admissions related to Covid-19, some with psychotic symptoms following the contraction of Covid-19, having never been involved with mental health services before, and others developing obsessional thoughts due to fear of Covid exposure.

“There have also been more serious cases of depression, in part due to changes in work circumstances, loss of loved ones or inability to pay bills.”

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Published May 21, 2022 at 7:50 am (Updated May 21, 2022 at 7:50 am)

People skipping annual health checks is a Covid-19 side effect

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