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Emergency room doctors assure safety of non-coronavirus patients

Benita Zahn
Updated: April 21, 2020 06:43 PM
Created: April 21, 2020 05:52 PM

There's an unintended consequence of the coronavirus pandemic - people in need of emergency medical care are avoiding the hospital and that can have deadly consequences. So area hospitals are trying to get the message out - get treated, we've got you covered.

"We have an area where we can separate patients that present with a fever, cough, and difficulty breathing," said Dr. Dennis Pauze, the chair of the Emergency Department at Albany Medical Center.

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The classic symptoms of coronavirus – and the reason many are afraid to come to the emergency department of a hospital - that they'll be infected while having their medical issue attended to.

However, leaders at both St. Peter's Hospital and Albany Med want to assure you - they have protocols in place to keep you safe.

"Patients who come in with heart attacks, or stroke-like symptoms, or abdominal pain - we put in a completely different area of our emergency department," said Pauze.

NewsChannel 13's Benita Zahn recently reported findings by the American Heart Association - that hospital admission of heart attack and stroke patients was down - raising worries that these folks might be dying at home. The same worry is happening in the Capital Region.

"We are down approximately 50-percent, but our admission rate is up approximately six percent. So what we're finding is that patients are waiting and waiting and waiting and when they come in they're sicker and sicker," said Pauze

"We've been trying to get across the message that people still need to access healthcare services when it's essential, when it's needed. We don't want people to not come to the emergency department when they're having a heart attack. We just don't want them coming in to the emergency department when they have a sprained ankle, right now," said Dr. Steven Hanks, the Chief Clinical Officer of St. Peter's Health Partners.

That's when the call should be to your primary care physician, urgent care, or a tele-health provider.

"But it does have us concerned because volumes are off much more than we would have anticipated," said Hanks.

So what's the bottom line? Are people dying at home? Dr. Hanks say it's simply not clear. It'll take time - perhaps years, to fully understand what's happening as people roll the dice and stay home when they have chest pain or symptoms of other serious conditions that should be sending them for emergency treatment.

"We are doing everything we can to make the environment as safe as possible," said Hanks.


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