Doctors Worried People With Serious Non-Coronavirus Issues May Be Afraid to Go to Hospitals

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Local doctors are noticing an alarming trend, due to concerns about coronavirus.

They say some patients are afraid to come to the hospital, even if they’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke.

Atrium Health is seeing a 40 percent drop in stroke patients. It’s not because people aren’t having strokes.

Doctors say, instead, they’re delaying treatment or not showing up at all.

“Stroke is medical emergency. We know that every minute counts in stroke, each minute up to two million brain cells are at risk of being damaged,” explains Dr. Rahul Karamchandani, Stroke Medical Director at Carolinas Medical Center.

The same trend is happening for people experiencing a heart attack.

Doctors worry this could lead to serious medical problems or even death for people not seeking treatment.

“The reality is the chance of having something bad happen to you if you had a heart attack is much higher, and the chance of dying from a heart attack is much higher than COVID itself,” says Dr. Troy Leo, Vice Chief of Cardiology at Atrium Health.

Hospital systems like Atrium are making efforts to separate those being treated for coronavirus vs. something else.

“Stroke patients and heart attack patients actually don’t even spend much time in the emergency department at all, they go directly to the areas where they can be definitively managed,” explains Dr. Andrew Asimos, Emergency Physician at Atrium Health.

The same is true for expectant mothers.

“Atrium has a separate maternity entrance for women to come in, so I think that’s really important for women and their support person to know they’re not coming through the emergency room,” says Hallie Lyon, Certified Nurse Midwife with Charlotte OB/GYN.