Emergencies can’t wait on COVID-19
Health officials worry fear is keeping people from seeking care
Fear of COVID-19 exposure may be creating another life-threatening problem - people choosing not to seek care in other types of emergencies.
happening nationally, the concern is that people suffering symptoms of various
acute illness are choosing not to seek immediate care out of concern they could
be exposed to COVID-19," said Sam Iden, M.D.,
Reid Health emergency physician. "We have seen cases of stroke, heart
attack, gastrointestinal emergencies and respiratory emergencies who have all
delayed their care and potentially worsened their outcome."
M.D., with Whitewater Valley Primary Care in Connersville, said health
system facilities use extensive infection control procedures 24/7/365 -- so
exposure to a virus at a physician office or the hospital is less likely than
in a trip to the grocery store, restaurant or a gas station. And Reid Health
has taken multiple additional steps to protect staff and patients, including
keeping patients with respiratory symptoms away from others with separate
respiratory clinics, tight visitor restrictions, masking of all patients and
staff and appropriate use of personal protective equipment.
Exposure to a virus at a physician office or the hospital is less likely than in a trip to the grocery store, restaurant or a gas station.
system has seen an unusual decline in non-COVID emergency visits, which
officials believe is an indication that some are taking risks by not seeking emergency
care when it is warranted. Reid has also had cases - particularly with
appendicitis - where patients have shown up at the respiratory clinic with
symptoms that can be similar to COVID-19, only to be rushed to emergency room.
An online Gallup poll recently found that four in five
Americans believe trips for care are risky because of COVID-19, leading some to
delay emergency care in other conditions that could increase risk of more
severe problems or even death. Hospitals and health systems are beginning to
report cases where patients delayed seeking care for fear of COVID-19,
increasing potential complications from conditions that should have been
Reid Health caregivers
believe the same thing is happening with some of its patients.
M.D., general surgeon, is aware of cases, particularly involving appendicitis, where patients delayed seeking care
and made their situation more severe. "This changes relatively routine care and
discharge to sometimes within 24 hours to multiple days in the hospital and
possibly multiple procedures." He said acute abdominal symptoms that come on
rapidly are examples of things that suggest going straight to the emergency
M.D., chief of staff and emergency physician, said she's heard patients
express worry about COVID-19 many times. "Timing is critical in several
conditions," she added. "We have life-saving medications that can only be given
within the first several hours after onset of stroke symptoms, for example. So
coming in quickly is of the utmost importance."
"We have seen cases of stroke, heart attack, gastrointestinal emergencies and respiratory emergencies who have all delayed their care and potentially worsened their outcome." -- Dr. Sam Iden, emergency physician
treatment for a heart attack or stroke can be the difference between life and
death and for the extent of recovery that can be achieved, said John McGinty,
M.D., cardiologist. "The risks associated with the delaying of care for a
heart attack include worsening heart damage causing congestive heart failure or
potentially death. Regardless of COVID-19 concerns, any symptoms of a stroke or
heart attack should be evaluated immediately in the closest emergency
and other caregivers said the health system team has done an excellent job
implementing extra protective measures during the COVID-19 crisis. "An
individual with severe symptoms should not delay emergency care over fears of
As the first
cases began to appear, the health system took numerous steps that were ramped
up as cases increased, including:
- Launching respiratory clinics in Richmond and later in Connersville where patients having respiratory symptoms can be safely triaged in a space separate from patients with other needs.
- Tight visitor restrictions in all locations with screening at the door.
- Using electronic monitoring of hospitalized potential COVID-19 patients to limit time staff is in their room.
- Dedicating one isolated hospital elevator for moving COVID patients.
- Established containment areas for inpatients either with or suspected of having the virus.
- Increasing types of appointments available by virtual visit and phone
"No one with
an emergency should hesitate to seek care," said Dr. McGinty. "Don't let fear
of COVID-19 cause you or a loved one to suffer or even lose their life because
of delaying or failing to seek care."
Hospital Association President Brian Tabor, addressing the concern of patients delaying
care across the state, said hospitals are ready to handle non-COVID-19 issues.
"Throughout this period, the physicians, nurses, and other staff of Indiana's
hospitals have also stood ready to safely deliver all essential medical care.
Hoosiers must know that they should seek treatment today not only in emergency
situations, but also to diagnose serious conditions, address underlying chronic
illnesses, relieve significant pain, and more."