Doctors in different ends of Connecticut are seeing a dangerous trend of fewer people going to the emergency room.
“Of the people who are coming in, they seem to be much sicker,” said Dr. Andrew Lim, the medical director of the emergency room for Bristol Health.
“We’re finding people that are missing that first golden hour of heart attacks and stroke care,” said Dr. Kyle McClaine, the chief of emergency services for Hartford Healthcare East Region at Backus Hospital. “People are still coming in late for infections, larger abscesses, larger skin infections, urinary infections, kidney infections, things that you can avoid by catching early.”
Doctors first noticed this when the pandemic began.
Despite their efforts to reassure people that the hospitals are safe, emergency room visits are still down.
Emergency room visits at Bristol Health are down 20% and they are not overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, like other hospitals across the country, according to Dr. Lim.
At Backus Hospital in Norwich, doctors are seeing a surge in coronavirus patients coming into the ER and the hospital is at a higher capacity in the ICU, but Dr. McClaine said the hospital’s overall ER volume is down by about 20 to 30 patients per day compared to previous years.
“We still wish people would come in sooner. The hospitals are safe, the ERs are safe. People should not be afraid of coming to seek care,” said Dr. McClaine.
Both doctors said their hospitals have plenty of personal protective equipment and the staff has been sanitizing between patients and keeping the waiting rooms extremely clean.
“We test every patient who gets admitted to the hospital or every patient that has surgery is tested for COVID, so we’re able to quickly identify those who may be an asymptomatic carrier,” Lim said.
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But if people are still worried about going into the hospital, Bristol Health has a telehealth option.
There, people can get the advice of an ER doctor from home and have the doctor write a prescription or urge you to come in for further treatment.
“What we’ve decided is that when a patient sets up a telehealth visit, we then recommend they come into the emergency room for evaluation. We’re willing to waive that telehealth fee, so essentially it’s like a free screening,” Dr. Lim said.
Doctors want to emphasize that people should not let fear of coronavirus stand in the way of seeking medical attention and care.