Carrie and Emmaline

Carrie Morley and her daughter Emmaline wearing masks after Emmaline’s well visit.

COUDERSPORT — A Coudersport mom wants to encourage other parents not to delay their own or their child’s health care due to anxiety surrounding going to the hospital amid the current pandemic.

Carrie Morley, of Coudersport, needed an appointment for her 3-year-old daughter, Emmaline, as she was overdue for her 3-year-old well visit vaccines and her three year well visit. Carrie said she was very hesitant to take her to the hospital, UPMC Cole, because of everything that is going on. She was especially nervous because her mom has had cancer for 13 years and has a low immune system and was worried about compromising her mom’s health.

She talked it over with her husband and they decided that since it seemed like the virus was not leaving anytime soon, they felt the risk of delaying their daughter’s visit and vaccine in the end would be higher. Carrie and her husband are also foster parents and wanted to set a good example to show that taking a child regularly to the doctor is an important part of keeping them healthy.

But all of her worries seemingly disappeared when she got to UPMC Cole. She said there was a group of staff members at the front desk that gave them hand sanitizer, asked some screening questions and gave them masks. They were all cheerful and comforting, Carrie said.

While in the waiting area, Carrie said they were the only people there and the chairs were spaced out six feet apart and the toys that were usually there to keep kids entertained were gone.

Emmaline was very afraid about wearing a mask, Carrie said, but her pediatrician, Dr. Mary Ann Rigas, took the time to explain why people were wearing masks and why it was important, all while staying upbeat and cheerful. She said she would not delay any other appointments during this time and encouraged others to continue seeing their doctors. She has two other children who will need well visits this summer and she won’t hesitate to bring them, she said.

Jennifer Scheible, director of patient safety, infection control and education at UPMC Cole, said UPMC Cole has been following the CDC guidelines since the beginning. The hospital staff has been practicing social distancing, wearing masks, routinely cleaning areas of high traffic and common touch points and reinforcing personal hygiene, like frequently washing hands. The hospital is limited to two entrances, one for patients or visitors and one for employees. Each person is screened and temperatures are taken.

Emily Bunnell, director of nursing, said as they move into the “new norm,” the screening tables aren’t going away in the near future and they will continue to screen everyone who enters the building. They have made adjustments to the visitor policy, namely allowing one support person to visit those in the inpatient area.

Still, the coronavirus isn’t the only illness that is out there. People still have cancer, are still sick, still have chronic illnesses and still need to have well checks, as Emmaline did. Scheible said they didn’t want to see people put their health in jeopardy out of fear. Preventive care is key, she said, the hospital is open and is here for you.