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Local Doctors Struggle with Helplessness and Supply Shortages

There’s nothing more frustrating than knowing you could be helping and being unable to. It’s a plight doctors like Del Ray’s Matthew Haden are experiencing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“It’s been extremely frustrating,” Haden said. “We feel sidelined. We’re trained to help for something like this, but we can’t. It’s extremely frustrating to know we can only help virtually, which often means not being able to help those in need.”

Haden said his office has always done telemedicine, but with the pandemic he’s had to direct nearly all patients except those with injuries to telemedicine.

“We’ve seen an uptick in new patients who need telemedicine to screen for coronavirus,” Haden said, “and we’ve had more interest from the public in one-off visits. That’s the primary change. We’ve had more panicked and scared messages from our patients.”

Haden isn’t alone in that. Other primary care providers in Alexandria have been switching primarily to telemedicine, including the Inova hospital system.

Haden says he does what he can to help concerned patients through the coronavirus testing online, which is mainly walking them through the CDC screening guidelines and giving them his up-to-date understanding of the symptoms. The challenge comes with getting them access to the actual tests.

“Actual testing has been more of a problem, like the nasal swap,” Haden said. “We have not been able to get the necessary medical supplies to conduct tests safely. We couldn’t get swabs at all, then we were able to get ten from one lab and three from another, but it’s been difficult to get personal safety equipment.”

Haden says he’s been collecting donated masks from around the Del Ray community and was able to snag the last six coveralls from Home Depot for his team. Haden says it’s important to get testing up and running because many people who don’t have active symptoms could still be spreading the virus without knowing it.

At Inova, tests are available but only for those exhibiting symptoms of coronavirus.

The best thing that Haden said the public can do is to follow the governor’s order to stay at home.

“Stay home,” Haden said. “It takes everyone being aggressive and vigilant now to shut this down. I know people are very impacted by economic consequence — but it will get much worse if we don’t shut it down now. It really takes isolation to keep this from spreading because people can be spreading it and not have symptoms, or think they have a virus or a cold. The public needs to take it seriously so we don’t have a sudden surge.”

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