Hospitals across nation seeing decline in emergency room visits

Posted at 9:00 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 01:54:42-04

With COVID-19 on the minds of just about everyone, doctors say concerns about the virus are keeping people away from emergency rooms. An area doctor explains why declining ER visits could be an issue.

“If somebody is at home and they’re having chest pain and they think they’re having a heart attack, they should absolutely come into the ER right away,” said Dr. Cinnamon Redd, Physician Director for Twin Cities Community Hospital.

While that may have been what most people would have done a few months ago, it’s not always the case now.

“We don’t think it’s because they’re not having those problems, we think that those patients who are at more risk of getting COVID are really frightened to come into the hospital,” Dr. Redd said.

She's seen a few cases of patients with serious conditions, like rapid heart rate and even appendicitis, waiting too long to seek medical attention. In some cases, long-term health issues could be prevented with an emergency room visit.

“Are we going to be seeing people in our offices several months from now, doing EKGs and seeing these new heart attack changes on them that they just sat at home and had a silent heart attack? These are real problems that I think are going to happen,” Dr. Redd said.

Greg Macedo has lived in San Luis Obispo for more than three decades. He took his 91-year-old mom to the emergency room recently because she wasn’t feeling well.

“I have to tell you, I was a little angsty about going in. I did have a mask on at the time, but they were very good. The staff was very good to us. I felt very safe there,” Macedo said. “A very positive experience.”

Dr. Redd says hospitals and emergency rooms may be safer environments than ever before due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I personally feel safer in this hospital than I do in a grocery store because everybody is masked and wearing gloves and the rooms are being studiously cleaned between patients,” she said. “We want to get the message out that we are ready and able to take care of those patients safely. We have the proper PPE to take care of them, and we are not overwhelmed or overburdened with COVID-19 patients.”

Dr. Redd wants to stress that their medical staff is following CDC recommendations to keep medical workers and patients coming into the hospital safe from COVID-19.