[Excerpt from article by Kristina Tedeschi Wayne, which also appeared in statewide newspapers]
Like many women throughout Connecticut, Isabella Vasquez of New Britain has missed or postponed health care appointments due to the pandemic. For the 23-year-old house cleaner, postponing medical appointments became necessary when the COVID-19 crisis affected childcare for her 2-year-old son.
“I would have to not go to my appointments sometimes because I didn’t have childcare,” she said. “When COVID struck, that’s when daycare became less reliable.” If her son sneezed or had a runny nose, daycare would not accept him, Vasquez explained.
More women than men have either missed medical appointments or postponed the care they thought they needed during the height of the pandemic, according to a recent DataHaven survey released in October of more than 5,000 randomly selected state residents.
The 2021 Community Wellbeing Survey found that 12% of women didn’t get the health care they needed in the last year, compared to 10% of men. Similarly, 34% of women postponed the medical care they thought they needed during the same time frame, while just 26% of men reported putting off care.
The numbers are higher than those reported in the 2018 community wellness survey, which found that 9% of women and men skipped medical care. More women than men, however, postponed the medical care they thought they needed, at 26% versus 20%.
UCFS operates five health care centers in eastern Connecticut. The higher numbers make sense, she added, as the pandemic brought increased childcare responsibilities and remote learning challenges often shouldered by women.
Nationally, Hispanic women have been disproportionately affected when it comes to accessing medical care, according to a women’s health survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, which found that 40% of Hispanic women skipped preventive health services and 25% skipped a recommended medical test or treatment.
The report by DataHaven, a nonprofit, also found that Latinos and low-income adults are less likely to have insurance and more likely to skip or delay medical care.
Between May 24 and August 30, 2021, 32% of women with no health insurance said they didn’t get the health care they needed in the past 12 months, compared with 25% of uninsured men, the survey found. When it came to putting off medical care, 51% of uninsured women postponed getting the care they thought they needed, compared with just 38% of uninsured men.
At UCFS, Westcott said she saw a 25% decrease in the number of patients seen in 2020 among all populations compared with previous years.
“We saw a drop off in the number of unique patients seen from calendar year 2019 to calendar year 2020 of about 5,000 patients,” she said, “and we attribute that to people forgoing care during the pandemic, even though we did offer telehealth appointments.”