While government leaders, healthcare providers, and the news media have all strongly encouraged citizens to stay at home and to call before seeking care, there is concern that patients are choosing to delay emergency medical treatment out of fear of exposure to the virus.
A decrease in visits to the Emergency Department is to be expected with more people staying safe at home, fewer vehicles on the road, and fewer accidents happening in the workplace. However, heart attacks, strokes, and other acute illnesses are still occurring and patients should not hesitate to seek care when they are experiencing those types of symptoms.
"We are seeing a concerning trend right now," said Neil Thornbury, CEO of T.J. Regional Health. "Patients are waiting longer to come to the ER to seek treatment for medical emergencies such as chest pains and stroke like symptoms. Delaying treatment for true medical emergencies could have devastating consequences."
Dr. Venkata Reddy, a Cardiologist with T.J. Regional Health, stated that, as it relates to cardiac care, time is muscle. "If you delay treatment, you may come at a stage where the damage has already happened to the heart muscle, and you will have more complications," he said. "This is especially true with patients who have an established history of coronary artery disease."
The Emergency Departments at T.J. Samson and at T.J. Health Columbia have put precautionary measures in place to ensure the safety of all patients. The staff is fully protected with masks, gowns, gloves, face shields, and other personal protective equipment. There are separate treatment areas for patients who show signs of respiratory illness versus patients who have non-infectious symptoms. Everyone who enters the facility is screened at the point of entry and few people other than patients or staff are allowed to enter. These precautions, and others, ensure that patients who need to seek care can do so safely.
"The stay-at-home message is vitally important for those who are healthy or who have non-emergent issues, but for patients with potentially life-threatening medical emergencies, they should know that it is safe and advised to seek care as soon as possible," Thornbury said. "Don't hesitate to call 911 if you need urgent medical attention."
To stay up-to-date on the latest developments and available information from federal and state agencies, visit the cdc.gov/coronavirus or kycovid19.ky.gov sites or call the Kentucky state hotline at 1.800.722.5725.
T.J. Regional Health, the parent system of multiple healthcare clinics, is anchored by T.J. Samson Community Hospital, a 196-bed acute-care facility with 16 skilled-care beds, based in Glasgow that is fully accredited by the Joint Commission, and the T.J. Health Pavilion, which provides outpatient care and physician offices. T.J. Regional Health also operates numerous Rural Health Clinics in the South Central Kentucky region.