Doctors see drop in ER patients amid COVID-19 pandemic

Coronavirus

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise in North Carolina, doctors say the number of hospital visits has dropped off drastically because people are questioning if it’s still safe.

Doctors in the UNC Health System say they keep hearing the same thing over and over from their patients.

“I was pretty shocked to hear that someone wouldn’t think that we would take care of somebody that was critically ill just because of the pandemic,” said Dr. Ryan Lamb.

Lamb, director of Emergency Medicine at REX Hospital, said during the COVID-19 pandemic, patient visits to the ER have dropped drastically and lead to a rise in deadly situations.

“Waiting two days to come in for your heart attack could lead to permanent damage,” said Lamb. “If you come in within hours you can go home the next day essentially unaffected.”

Lamb also said REX is seeing more patients whose appendix have already ruptured rather than just just suffering from appendicitis.

“I had a patient who waited two days with chest pains at home before coming in,” said Dr. Abhi Mehrotra with the REX emergency department. “They were having a heart attack during that period of time.”

The most common reason patients say they delayed going to the hospital is that they’re concerned that they will inadvertently catch COVID-19.

“Most likely if you’ll see somebody in a non-COVID area, then that physician and nurse won’t be treating patients in our COVID area,” said Lamb.

Though it’s still not safe for visitors they’re now allowing internet access in the ICU.

“In our ICUs, we’re distributing iPads so patients can connect with their family members and have the ability to have that conversation,” said Mehrotra.

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