Some women put health care on the back burner during COVID-19; experts warn that can be harmful
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As with everything else since COVID-19 hit Routt County, women seeking specific women’s health services have had to adapt in ways they never had before — telehealth appointments, mailing in DNA samples and dealing with variable, changing hours.
Many women did not complete annual checkups or seek services early on in the pandemic when scientists knew very little about the lethality and contagiousness of COVID-19, said Liz Kilmer-Sterling, a certified nurse-midwife at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center in Steamboat Springs.
“We are still trying to play catch up from having fewer in-person visits and nonessential visits for women,” Kilmer-Sterling said. “Our schedules are busy here trying to make sure women are getting seen, and a lot of women didn’t make their routine appointments last year and have put those things off until this year.”
Delaying routine checkups such as pap smears and breast exams can potentially cause problems, Kilmer-Sterling said.
“Women are notorious for putting our health on the back burner and putting our care last,” Kilmer-Sterling said.
Many college-aged women returned home due to COVID-19, which meant they were unable to see the doctors they usually saw at school, which made it difficult for some to obtain birth control, Kilmer-Sterling said.
“For the biggest part, we see unplanned pregnancies because of not getting birth control refilled,” Kilmer-Sterling said.
But Routt County health care providers said they have been able to serve most patients through telehealth services.
“Our health care is very simple, and it’s very important, but a lot of it can be done via telehealth,” said Adrienne Mansanares, chief experience officer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. “We’re actually seeing an increase in patients.”
As for the Planned Parenthood office in Steamboat, Mansanares said hours vary depending on weather and COVID-19 status levels, which have changed multiple times over the last few months. Mansanares said she encourages patients in the Yampa Valley to call 970-879-2212 or visit the office’s website to book an appointment.
“We have a good strong community of patients in Steamboat who’ve been coming to see us for years,” Mansanares said. “Any patient in Steamboat who wants to be seen in person will be seen.”
Whitney Philips, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, said the Steamboat office specifically sees many seasonal employees who are often uninsured or may not have a primary care physician they can see often.
“We actually see a lot of seasonal employees in our ski towns,” Philips said. “This is such an important service that we provide for these towns.”
Kilmer-Sterling said many people lost their insurance or stable income due to COVID-19, which is why low-cost women’s health services are especially important.
“That’s why so many of these other programs are so important to provide that low-cost health care,” she said.
Mansanares said the Planned Parenthood office in Steamboat has referred several patients to UCHealth throughout COVID-19, and the two try to work closely together.
“We’re really blessed to have strong partners all through the Yampa Valley, and we try to support each other,” Mansanares said. “When we’re sending a patient out, we’re not just sending them off to someone we don’t know. We have strong relationships with other providers in the community.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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