Spokane woman turned away from Providence Medical Center

SPOKANE, Wash. — Imagine your doctor refusing to see you because you’re sick. It’s happening right now because of the coronavirus.

Rebecca Gaffney has been sick with a cough for over a month. She was already being treated at Providence Medical Center and was put on antibiotics.

About two days ago, Gaffney said she started waking up in the middle of the night and coughing uncontrollably. That’s when she decided to schedule an appointment at Providence for a chest x-ray.

On Monday, she got a phone call from her nurse who said they wouldn’t see her because they’ve decided not to see patients with coughs as a safety precaution. The nurse also mentioned they had been cancelling appointments with patients all day.

Gaffney said she was told she would have to wait two weeks before she could be seen by her doctor.

“For people that do have just a mild cough or even asthma, not being able to see your doctor can be scary, especially if you’re older than me or a baby that can’t be seen,” said Gaffney.

We reached out to Providence Medical Center and they provided 4 News Now with this statement:

“Across the country, new cases of COVID-19 are being reported at a rapid pace. Providence Health Care is following established infection prevention protocols that keep safety for our patients, caregivers, and the community at the heart of all decisions. We will continue to provide high-quality care to everyone who needs it, but the way we provide that care may vary based on different circumstances.

As appointments are confirmed for our outpatient clinics, patients may be asked basic screening questions regarding their current health condition. Depending upon the patient’s responses, a registered nurse may perform additional screening. To minimize the spread of all respiratory issues, including COVID-19, a few patients may be asked to change from an in-person appointment to a virtual appointment using Providence Express Care Virtual, or offered advice on how to manage a condition at home. The same high level of care is available through Providence Express Care Virtual from board-certified providers who treat many of the same common conditions as our primary care offices, and reduces the spread of illness.

This is an important strategy to embrace as we all work together to limit the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses. Some of our outpatient clinics provide care for extremely vulnerable populations, people with highly complex conditions for whom respiratory illness pose a special hazard. For these individuals, we respectfully ask patients who are redirected to Express Care Virtual to consider the importance of minimizing risk and isolating patients.

This process is new for our outpatient clinics and training is still underway. As it relates to this specific patient’s experience, it sounds like the cancellation notice was given out of sequence before the patient could speak with the RN. We would be happy to speak with her about this situation and work toward a resolution together.”