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Doctors: Some critically ill patients are avoiding ER due to COVID-19 concerns

Posted at 6:54 PM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 18:54:38-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Some Virginians are waiting too long to go to the emergency room out of fear of contracting COVID-19.

A poll released Wednesday showed 80 percent of adults are concerned about contracting the coronavirus if they visited an emergency room.

The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and Morning Consult sampled more than 2,200 adults across the country from April 18 through April 20.

The same poll showed a third of adults have delayed or avoided seeking medical care due to concerns about contracting COVID-19.

Dr. Carlton Stadler serves as a member of the Virginia College of Emergency Physicians and works in a local ER.

He shared a heartbreaking story of a patient he recently treated.

“They had been having chest pain for three days before they presented to the emergency room. When they presented to the emergency room it was because their family member ended up calling 911 after they had collapsed in their living room,” Stadler recalled.

Doctors warn waiting to seek treatment can have devastating consequences.

A spokesperson for HCA Healthcare said they are seeing a significant drop in visits to the hospital for non-COVID 19 related emergency such as strokes, heart attack, or even broken bones.

“Emergency rooms like Chippenham, Johnston-Willis, Henrico Doctor’s Hospital campuses and John Randolph Medical Center are still the most appropriate—and safe—places for loved ones suffering from traumatic injuries or severe pain to be treated,” the spokesperson said.

VCU Medical Center also saw a 37% decline in patients seeking emergency care for a stroke compared to the same time last year, according to a spokesperson.

The university compiled tips and safety information whether your symptoms should warrant a trip to the emergency room.

Compared to a month ago, Stadler said hospitals are better equipped to treat COVID-19 patients.

“We are seeing patients that are coming off ventilators and we are seeing patients that are recovering from this,” he explained. “Fortunately through social distancing and hand washing and all of these stay at home measures we’ve been able to fall way below the curve.”

But, he worried the impacts if the state were to re-open too quickly.

“As social distancing begins to decrease and stores begin to open we are going to see a surge,” Stadler warned. “We are going to see a surge in the number of cases.”

A CBS 6 Problem Solvers Investigation revealed Virginia is tied for the second-lowest rate of COVID-19 testing in the entire country.

The Virginia College of Emergency Physicians is pushing legislators to gain access to more testing and quicker testing, Stadler said.

Governor Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, reassured Virginians in his Wednesday press conference that healthcare facilities are safe.

“Our efforts to slow the spread of the virus is showing success,” he said. “Our hospitals, our clinics, our dental offices - these are safe and clean places to go. I want to encourage all Virginians that your healthcare is important and I encourage you to resume that healthcare.”

Northam announced that elective surgeries and non-emergency dental procedures can resume after his executive order expires at midnight Thursday.

The ACEP and Morning Consult poll also showed 91 percent of respondents believe that emergency physicians should receive hazard pay. An overwhelming number of adults believe the federal government needs to support efforts to increase access to protective equipment for emergency physicians.