Delaying medical care can have dire consequences. But unfortunately, that is what has been happening because of fear related to COVID-19. Hospitals across the country have seen a tremendous decrease in people coming to the emergency room for time-sensitive conditions such as heart attack, stroke and appendicitis. And doctors are concerned that the fear of novel coronavirus is causing a second wave of deaths.
When it comes to stroke, time is brain. Delaying care even minutes can increase brain damage, disability and even death. During a stroke, several million brain cells die every minute. And for ischemic strokes, the clot busting drug tPA can only be administered within the first few hours after the start of symptoms.
The longer a heart attack goes untreated, the more heart muscle can be damaged. Depending on the extent of damage, this can lead to heart failure, arrhythmia or even death. The quicker a person can recognize symptoms, get to the ER and be taken to the cath lab, the better their chance of survival and minimized damage.
If a person has appendicitis for 24-48 hours, the appendix can rupture. This causes the infection to spill into the abdomen and can make a person very sick and can even be life-threatening. That is why it is so important to call your doctor or head to the emergency room if you are suspicious of appendicitis.
When to go to the emergency room
If you would normally go to an emergency room for your condition, you should still go during a pandemic. Some sure signs you require emergency attention are:
- Head injury, loss of consciousness or other major trauma
- Severe abdominal pain
- Signs of a stroke such as one-sided weakness or numbness
- Signs of a heart attack such as chest pain
- High fever
- Open fracture
- Uncontrollable pain or bleeding
- Breathing problems
Hospitals are still a safe place for care
There is a perception that hospitals are sources for exposure and contamination of COVID-19, but that is simply not true. Hospitals have extensive safety measures in place to prevent infectious disease from spreading. Not seeking care for a medical emergency is much more dangerous than going to a hospital at this time.
At Tulane Health System, the health and safety of our patients, caregivers and communities is our top priority. We maintain strict precautions and infection prevention measures. Some of the steps we’re taking to keep you and our clinical team safe are:
- All patients, visitors and clinicians are screened before entering a facility
- Rapid testing capabilities, so we know if someone tests positive for COVID-19 within minutes
- Each hospital has a separate location for COVID-19 positive patients. These patients are masked and escorted to designated locations
- Everyone is required to wear a mask throughout our facilities, which exceeds CDC guidelines
- Heightened infection prevention policies, including the removal of high-touch items such as magazines and toys
- Food and drinks are prohibited in clinical units to prevent the spread of illness
- Non-COVID-19 patients, as well as those receiving outpatient care, or patients with scheduled procedures, are treated in separate areas and assigned caregivers who are not concurrently caring for COVID-19 positive patients
- Updated visitor policies, including limitations, which have been in place for the duration of the pandemic
Expert emergency care close to home
If you or a loved one are experiencing emergency symptoms, don’t delay care. Time matters and can greatly impact outcomes. We are here for you and we are well-equipped to handle any health concern you may have.