Savannah doctors worry patients are avoiding ER, endangering health

Local News

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV)- Savannah doctors are worried the coronavirus could be keeping patients away from emergency rooms, even when they need life saving care.

Since March, emergency rooms at St. Joseph’s/Candler have been relatively quiet. The hospital has seen their volume drop by nearly 40 percent.

“A lot of people theororize that people are being healthier that there’s less injuries and illnesses happening that would be great,” said Dr. Jeff Kenney, Emergency Department Medical Director at St. Joseph’s/Candler. “I guess the worse idea is maybe people are staying away because they are afraid of getting sick with COVID-19 so they’re delaying care.”

Kenney said it’s unlikely patients with other illnesses or injuries will get infected from an ER visit.

Staff make sure to screen, provide a mask to , and isolate patients if they show any signs of viral infection.

“To date I am not aware of any patients contracting or catching coronavirus from coming to the hospital,” said Kenney.”I think we’ve been very successful with PPE use and cohorting patients.”

Cardiologist Dr. Michael Babcock saidthe amount of documented heart attacks are plummeting. He said contrary to popular belief, that’s not a good thing.

“People are unfortunately having heart attacks at home and not seeking out appropriate medical care,” said Babcock.

Kenney said when patients do come in they are often very sick and sometimes in critical condition.

“We’ve had patients refuse to be admitted for chest pain until their third time back when we could finally convince them,” said Kenney. “We”ve had stroke patients waiting to come in later in their symptoms so yes people are delaying it and it’s having bad outcomes.”

Doctors said telemedicine is always an alternative, but in the case of an emergency they say you should go to the hospital.

St. Joseph’s/Candler said they continue to see no increase in positive COVID-19 patients. They said since some of the state has opened back up ER visits are slowly rising.

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