Baptist Health Floyd

NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) -- Hospitals across the country are seeing significant drops in emergency room visits, and doctors believe it’s contributing to more serious, non-COVID-19 issues by delaying medical care.

The Floyd County Health Department issued a warning Tuesday afternoon, urging people experiencing severe symptoms to not hesitate going to an emergency room. Baptist Health Floyd typically sees 140 patients in the emergency room each now. Now, the ER sees an average of 70 each day.

“That’s good," said Dr. Kevin Wurst, an ER physician at Baptist Health Floyd. "It means that people are at home quarantining with minor problems like we were hoping they would. The only problem is we’re starting to see patients that are very ill without COVID that are delaying their visit to the emergency room, which is causing them harm that we could’ve probably prevented.”

The reasons why emergency room visits are down could be a combination of issues. As the coronavirus started to hit Indiana in March, state and health leaders encouraged Hoosiers to not overwhelm the hospital systems with minor medical concerns. Floyd County Health Department Officer Dr. Tom Harris said the second part of that request was also to make sure people still go to the emergency room when it is severe and necessary. However, some people have second-guessed going to the emergency room when they should’ve.

Doctors believe the main reason people for that is they're scared of getting COVID-19 at the hospital.

“Chest pain, abdominal pain, stroke-like symptoms ... We’re getting patients that are waiting one, two, maybe three days to come to the emergency room after those symptoms start," Wurst said. "And they end up being very sick. Some of those sick patients I just mentioned actually said, ‘I was going to come in a couple days ago, but I was afraid I was going to get sick with COVID.'"

Wurst said the hospital is probably one of the safest places a person could be right now because of all the precautions and trained staff in place. Everyone is wearing a mask, and the COVID-19 patients are already identified and isolated from anyone else who might come into the hospital for a non-COVID related issue.

Harris said other significant diseases will not stop just because we’re fighting a pandemic.

“People are staying home because they’re scared of catching COVID,” Harris said. “But for some, that’s not what you need to be afraid of. There are other situations that could be more dangerous for you if you ignore them.”

Harris said if someone is having heart-attack symptoms, doctors can often open the artery back up if the patient is seen within six hours of first experiencing symptoms. For strokes, Harris said people need to be seen right away for best results. And for anyone with severe bowel pain, serious issues like bowel perforations and abscesses can be prevented with early antibiotic therapy.

“There are some warning signs that are so serious that even if we are in the middle of an epidemic, we want you to come in,” Harris said.

If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, especially if you are over the age of 40, you should not hesitate to come to the closest emergency room:

  • Chest pain
  • Passing out
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Sudden numbness or weakness
  • Acute vision problems or blindness
  • Struggling to walk
  • Struggling to speak
  • Severe headaches
  • Severe bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain

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