Doctors Urge Patients to Seek Needed Care Despite COVID-19 Fears

May 01, 2020
heart blog for CL
Out of fear, some patients are delaying care and avoiding the hospital, even when they have an emergency. But neglecting heart care in particular can have serious consequences and can even be deadly. Cardiologists are urging patients to pay attention to their symptoms and seek emergency care when needed, despite COVID-19 fears.

Dr. Frederick Meine III of NHRMC Physician Group - Cape Fear Heart Associates, said patients with heart conditions are at higher risk of complications if they do get COVID-19, so patients should follow all the public health guidelines and be careful. But that does not include avoiding seeking treatment for heart issues.

"Do not ignore your heart,” Dr. Meine said. “Despite the COVID pandemic, we can keep you safe from a COVID standpoint, and we can save your life from a heart standpoint.”

Patients who have ignored serious heart issues and delayed care have had bad outcomes, something that has been documented internationally in areas hit sooner by COVID-19, and now in the United States. Nine major U.S. hospitals experienced an estimated 38 percent reduction in emergency room treatment of heart attacks since the COVID-19 outbreak took center stage in the U.S., according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

"Across the world and country and around our community – people are ignoring really serious health problems because they are worried about going to a hospital and getting COVID," Dr. Meine said.

He wants people to know that ignoring significant health problems can lead to serious complications.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s Emergency Department has seen decreases in the number of patients seeking care. Fear of exposure to COVID-19 is believed to be the main cause for the decrease, said Dr. De Winter, medical director of the NHRMC Emergency Department.

The decreased number of patients prompts concerns that patients with symptoms of medical emergencies like a heart attack, stroke and other serious illnesses are waiting too long to seek care or aren’t coming in at all.

“People have been waiting for too long and then coming into the emergency department much sicker,” said Dr. Winter. “People have been having chest pain and then end up having a heart attack, and people have been having fevers and then end up having a more severe condition called sepsis. Ideally, what we would like for people to do is come in earlier to be screened and treated and prevent some of these severe complications associated with these diseases.”

Dr. Winter said NHRMC is prepared to care for patients’ emergency conditions while simultaneously keeping them safe. He said facilities at the 17th Street location have been modified to accommodate all who need care. “We’ve expanded our emergency department’s capacity to care for patients, to make sure that even though there’s a pandemic that we’re able to care for all patients, including those with other conditions such as heart attack and stroke,” Dr. Winter said. “We’ve been taking many precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the emergency department.”

Those precautions include screening patients at the entrance of the ED and keeping patients suspected to have COVID-19 symptoms away from other patients.

Dr. Meine said if you are having a problem and would have called 911 for this problem six weeks ago, then you need to call 911 for this problem now and not ignore your heart.

According to the American College of Cardiology, some symptoms of a heart attack you should not ignore include chest pain, difficulty breathing, discomfort in chest, arms, back, neck, shoulder or jaw. Warning signs of stroke include numbness, weakness or loss of movement in your face, leg or arm, especially on one side, confusion, trouble speaking or understanding and loss of balance.

Categories: Your Health
Topics: Heart Health

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