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Doctor: Public avoiding emergency room care due to COVID-19 fears

St. Claire Healthcare in Morehead says since COVID-19 unfolded they have seen emergency...
St. Claire Healthcare in Morehead says since COVID-19 unfolded they have seen emergency department visits cut by 50 percent.(WKYT)
Published: Apr. 22, 2020 at 10:44 PM EDT
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Times have changed in hospitals across the nation. In emergency departments, the biggest change has been in the amount of patients walking through the doors.

St. Claire Healthcare in Morehead says since COVID-19 unfolded they have seen emergency department visits cut by 50 percent. The regional hospital doesn't sit alone. E.R.'s across the United States report similar numbers -- fear driving the stats.

Doctor Philip Overall, the Medical Director of Emergency Services along with leading the charge in the pandemic response, says patients are now entering into the E.R. days after they should have arrived. He says while patients fear coming to the E.R., their health problems are only getting worse.

“They're scared right now," said Overall "They're scared to come inside the emergency department but they should know that we are here and they should present for those symptoms in order to ensure they are not experiencing a medical emergency such as a heart attack or a stroke.”

He says the fear for many starts when thinking of other potential COVID-19 patients that have been in the same space.

So far Dr. Overall reports some patients arriving in very poor condition including one patient with unmanaged congestive heart failure.

The hospital has worked to ease fears and cross-contamination by separating the sick and the seemingly healthy in two separate waiting rooms since the virus came to Kentucky. Before even making it to the waiting room, each patient is screened for COVID-19 symptoms from the moment they step on hospital property to the moment they are placed in a room.

COVID-19 patients are also treated away from the general population.

You would think less patients would provide less work for staff. Dr. Overall says it can be the complete opposite.

“It’s actually taken more resources to manage these patients because they are coming in sicker right now," said Dr. Overall.

The Doctor is now urging the public to have faith in Kentucky's medical care. He says the precautions have proven the public should not be fearful of receiving care before a health problem gets worse or even leads to death.