Walk through our hospitals, and you’ll notice something: silence.
Our hospital corridors, usually bustling with caregivers and patients, have been unusually empty these past few weeks. Many of the beds in our inpatient units have gone unfilled.
The number of emergency patients suffering from strokes, chest pain, and diabetic emergencies has declined. Fewer surgeries are being performed, and we have seen fewer pediatric patients in the emergency department as well.
While fewer emergencies may sound like cause for celebration, we know that the reality is otherwise. Throughout this community, loved ones, including the elderly and medically vulnerable, have been delaying or avoiding care out of fear of coming to the hospital during a pandemic. Others feel a sense of duty to avoid the hospital to not overwhelm healthcare resources.
It’s not an isolated issue. The number of hospital visits have dropped around the world – an unusual occurrence at the tail end of flu season. We’ve seen our community take extraordinary measures amid this pandemic to practice responsible social distancing, “flattening the curve” and keeping our healthcare workers safe.
We’re grateful for that, but the measures – meant to prevent an unmanageable surge of COVID-19 patients – have had unintended consequences. This is distressing for those who are suffering from conditions that can worsen without immediate medical care.
A man in our community, for example, started having weakness and difficulty with his speech. He was worried about it being safe to come to the hospital and waited at home hoping his symptoms would improve. Several hours later, at the request of his family, he presented to the ED, unfortunately, he had waited too long and was no longer a candidate for the clot-busting medication, tPA. Often, if a patient presents early in their disease course, we can intervene quickly and potentially help save patients from debilitating outcomes.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we understand that there is fear and many patients are asking the question: is it safe to come to the hospital? Let us answer this question for everyone who might be asking themselves the same thing: Yes, our hospitals are safe. Emergencies are still going to happen, and you should never delay care. By doing so, this pandemic will indirectly claim more lives and wreak more havoc than it otherwise should.
Our community has done its job socially distancing. That has provided us adequate time to prepare for any potential surge of patients, put into place infection prevention measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 within our hospital walls, and most of all, keep our patients and caregivers safe.
Now it’s time for us to continue doing our jobs keeping our community healthy.
Emergency care should never be put off or avoided, even during a pandemic.
Emergencies happen. Don’t delay your care.
– Rick Rawson, President, Adventist Health and Rideout
– Dr. Kamara Graham, Emergency Physician, Emergency Department Medical Director