Doctors warn coronavirus fears are keeping people from seeking emergency help

Posted at 4:19 PM, Apr 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-23 06:50:40-04

HAMPTON ROADS, Va.— Medical professionals are warning that an alarming number of people are dying, and it’s not from COVID-19.

They say people aren’t seeking help for common medical emergencies, and by the time they do, it’s too late.

“We don’t want people to stay at home when they should seek medical attention such as a heart attack, a stroke or traumatic injury of some type,” says Lt. Melissa Doak with the York County Department of Fire & Life Safety.

Experts says coronavirus fear can be deadly.

“Cardiac arrest and DOAs— dead on arrivals— are increased,” says Riverside Regional Medical Center Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Gary Kavit.

The waiting game is a deadly one to play when a medical emergency is happening.

Kavit says people are dying because they’ve stopped seeking treatment for life-threatening illnesses since the pandemic started.

“We have therapies to reverse a heart attack. We have therapies to reverse a stroke, but they are all time-sensitive. So, if we cannot intervene in a timely manner, the final results of a heart attack is going to be that much worse,” says Kavit.

Kavit says emergency department patients at Riverside are down 40-45% since the pandemic. The patients they are seeing are sicker, leading them to believe people are waiting too long to seek help.

“They choose to stay home perhaps thinking it’s going to get better, and unfortunately some of these people are succumbing,” says Doak.

Kavit says it’s a national problem. There’s no evidence suggesting medical emergencies have slowed, even though the calls have.

“Everyone across the Peninsula has been reporting throughout the course of this COVID-19 pandemic events that their numbers have been down as far as the number of calls being received as well as the number of transports going to a hospital,” says Doak.

Doak says people shouldn’t hesitate to call 911 if they’re experiencing a strokes, heart attacks or traumatic injury. If you’re ever in doubt about how severe your symptoms are, Doak says it’s best to still call 911.

“The paramedics can come out to their home and do an assessment and if there’s any question, I can contact the physicians at the local hospital and have a discussion about if it’s appropriate or not for them to be transported at that time to the hospital.”

Doctors say people may fear that they’ll crowd the hospital, expose themselves to the virus or be separated from a loved one who isn’t allowed to visit, but the alternative could be much worse, which is why experts are urging people to not let fear of coronavirus keep you from getting the important medical attention you need.

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