Patients not seeking medical attention for fear of contracting COVID-19

Published: Apr. 16, 2020 at 1:52 PM EDT
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During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard frequent phrases such as "social distance" and "healthy at home." But an alarming report claims many people are not seeking help for serious medical issues.

King's Daughters Medical Center, in Ashland, says many patients have admitted they have avoided going to the ER after showing signs of serious medical emergencies, such as heart attack or stroke.

"I understand that it can be very confusing to hear 'stay away' on the one hand and 'come immediately' on the other," said KDMC President and CEO Kristie Witlatch. "Everyone is trying to do the right thing for themselves, their families and our community. However, the window for the most effective treatments for some conditions is often very short, sometimes as little as an hour. While we do want you to be careful, we don't want you to suffer life-long or life-limiting complications because you were afraid to seek care."

Patients experiencing any of the following should call 911 or seek immediate attention:

• Chest pain

• Stroke signs, including sudden loss of vision, numbness or difficulty speaking; drooping face or loss of muscle control on one side of the body

• Loss of consciousness

• Severe trouble breathing

• Severe abdominal pain

• Coughing up or vomiting blood

• Urinary blockages

• Seizures/convulsions

• Pregnancy complications

"They know that they are more at risk of contracting the coronavirus, and they're worried about the mortality of that," said KDMC Hospitalist Stacy Caudill. "But the mortality from a stroke or a heart attack, or even their normal COPD, is just as detrimental to them as the coronavirus."

Caudill says this is an alarming trend going on across the country, and told WSAZ a patient told her this week that they were having signs of a stroke for three days.

"A lot of these diagnoses, the quicker you get in, the better outcomes that you have," Caudill said.

"If you are concerned about the possibility of contracting COVID-19 by coming to the hospital, I want to reassure you we are taking every precaution available to protect the health of our patients and team members," Witlatch said. "This includes designated isolation rooms and units for patients with diagnosed/suspected COVID-19; visitor restrictions; universal masking (everyone, patients and team members alike); daily temperature checks; the use of personal protective equipment (including face shields, respirators, gloves, gowns and other PPE as appropriate); and ramped-up disinfection procedures."

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