Cancer treatment at many of the borough’s private medical practices essentially halted at the onset of the pandemic as patients weighed the risks of potential exposure to the virus, according to an area oncologist whose southern Brooklyn facility is looking towards the future now that the city is starting to reopen.
“We couldn’t see anybody for five or six weeks,” said Dr. John Kehoe. “I think everyone in the medical profession was really concerned about the fact that people weren’t able to take care of themselves — either doctor’s offices weren’t open or [patients] were reluctant to go.”
The Dr. John Kehoe Breast Center — located on Third Avenue and 97th Street in Bay Ridge— specializes in caring for breast cancer patients from the first stages of their diagnosis.
The unprecedented experience completely changed the dynamic of care Kehoe and his team could provide to their patients, the doctor said. His office instead, shifted its focus towards keeping patients calm and comfortable until they could return to the center.
“These patients were living with their cancer, knowing it was there,” Kehoe said, “and the challenge was just to nurture them through it and tell them that they were going to be okay and we are going to take care of it [when we could].”
Many patients worried about traveling to the center and possibly contracting the virus, which the doctor said could be more of a risk than the breast cancer for many of his patients.
“I had a patient who we kept nurturing, calling her up,” Kehoe said. “She said ‘I am not going in, I am much more frightened of getting COVID than I am of dying of cancer.’”
And there are New Yorkers who still feel that way. Though the Breast Center has reopened, some practices Kehoe works with are continuing to operate at minimal capacity or are still closed — something, the doctor said, exemplifies how interdependent the medical field is.
“One of the problems we are running into right now is that people are not running at full capacity… it takes longer to get people radiology studies,” Kehoe said. “Plus, we have seen practices that haven’t come back.”
The veteran medical practitioner suspects the pandemic will have a lasting impact on the medical field, which will continue to unfold. However, he hopes it will leave caregivers like himself and his team better prepared for a potential second wave of the novel coronavirus this fall.
“None of us have a sense of what it is going to look like in three months,” Kehoe said. “Telemedicine has come in, we have found out we could more on the phone than before. The whole dynamic is changing.”
For more information on the Dr. Kehoe Breast Center, or on Dr. John Kehoe, visit www.johnkehoemd.com. To contact the Bay Ridge facility, dial 718-921-3800.