Fears of the coronavirus are causing some patients to delay or avoid seeking emergency care for a stroke or heart attack. Doctors say every delayed second could put patients at risk for a worse outcome.
If you or someone you know is experiencing an emergency, seek care immediately by calling 911 or going to the nearest emergency department.
For some people, fear of exposure to COVID-19 outweighs the risk of a heart attack. In “Afraid of going to the hospital,” the San Francisco Chronicle describes how patients like Oakland resident Hany Metwally are delaying critical evaluation and care for fear of the virus. Says Metwally, “I was afraid to have communication with anybody because I am 64 and at high risk for the coronavirus.”
Metwally suffered severe chest pain at home for four days before his son Mohammed Metwally finally convinced him to seek care at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland. When he arrived at the Alta Bates Summit emergency department in Oakland, the senior Metwally was impressed with how patients with upper respiratory symptoms are kept separate from those experiencing non-respiratory symptoms like himself.
Ronn Berrol, M.D., medical director of the emergency department at Alta Bates Summit in Oakland, understands why some patients may be concerned but, “We want to reassure people that Sutter hospitals and emergency departments have plenty of capacity to care for them and we are taking every precaution to maintain stringent safety guidelines. So if you or a loved one are experiencing severe pain or illness or have a serious injury, please don’t delay care. We are prepared to care for you and protect you from the virus while you are receiving care.”
Junaid Khan, M.D., director of cardiovascular services at Alta Bates Summit, who performed a successful triple bypass on Metwally, says it’s critical for patients to continue to seek care for serious conditions without delay, despite the virus. “People are correct to be afraid, but their risk of delaying cardiac or stroke care puts them at much greater risk than the risk of acquiring COVID-19.”
Read more about the steps Sutter hospitals and emergency departments have taken to protect patients.