Saint Michael’s Doctor Sounds Alarm on Impact of COVID-19 on Communities of Color

During the pandemic, Saint Michael’s Medical Center Chief Medical Officer Dr. Hamid Shaaban saw first hand the ruthless way COVID-19 attacked people of color.

An oncologist and an infectious disease expert, Dr. Shaaban sounded the alarm about the disproportionate impact of COVID-19.

He appeared on regional and national television news to highlight the disparity and he supported biparti-san legislation signed by Gov. Murphy in April requiring hospitals to report demographic data to the state Department of Health.

Dr. Shaaban said health experts need to collect this kind of data to help them understand why the virus appears to have been more fatal in communities of color like Newark, where Saint Michael’s is located.

Newark, whose population is 50% black and 36% Latino, suffered the highest fatality rate of any city in New Jersey.

Dr. Shaaban said public health studies are needed to understand what can be done to improve future outcomes for people of color.

State statistics show that nearly 60% of those who died from COVID-19 suffered from cardiovascular disease and 44% suffered from diabetes and 32% had other chronic diseases.

“This virus targets patients who have diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure – the very same medical problems that predispose people to strokes and heart attacks and that also happen to be most prevalent among communities of color,” Dr. Shaaban said.

“The biggest and harshest lesson of this crisis is that patients with these conditions cannot afford to ignore and delay medical care for too long,” Dr. Shaaban said. “We need to make sure that individuals with symptoms over-come their unease and anxiety and get immediate medical treatment that can potentially save their lives and avoid serious long-term complications.

”Dr. Shaaban said residents in Newark and the surrounding communities have many options to get their healthcare needs addressed.

Saint Michael’s oper-ates a full-service Primary and Speciality Care Center. The center provides annual wellness check-ups, preventative screen-ings, medical treatments for common illnesses and immunizations, including the flu shot.

Speciality services in-clude asthma, cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, podiatry/wound care and neurology. The center also performs surgical procedures, in-cluding hernias, gallbladders and much more.

The center accepts most insurance plans and the center may be able to help patients without insurance find an affordable plan. For more information, call (973) 877-5188.

“This is not the time to delay but to be proactive because timing is everything in disease intervention and sometimes that timing can be a matter of life and death,” Dr. Shaaban said.

Dr. Shaaban said he understands some people may not want to come to a hospital over concerns that they could be exposed to COVID-19, but, he said, patients can be assured that they are safe at Saint Michael’s.

Saint Michael’s, which is owned by Prime Healthcare, received an “A” Hospital Safety Grade from the Leapfrog Group, the fourth period in a row it has achieved the top distinction. The hospital also received Patient Safety Excellence Award from Healthgrades, the leading online resource for information about hospitals.

One of the benefits of being affiliated with a national healthcare system, is that Saint Michael’s benefits from best practices developed by 45 hospitals across the country.

“Safety is the top priority for our patients at Saint Michael’s,” Dr. Shaaban said. “We want to assure our patients that we are implementing best practices and will do everything we can to keep them safe.

”Saint Michael’s has created special units for COVID-19, ensuring non COVID-19 patients remain in a separate unit. The hospital also has a transitional floor for patients awaiting test results.

Saint Michael’s patients will be screened and tested for COVID-19 48-72 hours prior to elective surgery even if there are no signs of infection.All of the hospital’s healthcare workforce are tested as well.

“We are committed to being vigilant in our fight against COVID-19 and its evolving impact, and ensuring that Saint Michael’s is a safe places for patients, providers and staff,” Dr. Shaaban said.