Non-Coronavirus Patients Urged to Get Care Amid Pandemic

A drop in non-coronavirus emergencies is a cause for concern among health care professionals

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Patients who need emergency care should seek care from local hospitals even as the country grapples with the novel coronavirus crisis, a prominent doctor says.

Dr. Christopher Kwolek, chair of surgery at Newton Wellesley Hospital, expressed concern over what he said is a drastic decrease in patients seeking emergency care.

"The very real concern that all of us have as clinicians is: We don’t want our patients to unnecessarily risk their life or significant medical problems by not seeking out medical attention," Kwolek told NBC10 Boston and NECN.

Local hospitals have seen an 80% decline in non-COVID-19 patients, according to Kwolek, which health care professionals attribute to a fear of the coronavirus. That can result in patients waiting too long and arriving much sicker.

"They're seeing an increasing number of patients who sit at home for three, four, five days with urgent medical problems that really should be taken care of and yet people are afraid to come out," Kwolek said.

Gov. Charlie Baker is sending a similar message, implementing a statewide PSA that has been urging people to seek care for serious conditions for the past week.

As Massachusetts' surge in coronavirus cases persists, hospital leaders are asking people not to be afraid to seek medical help for other issues if they need it.

Baker and officials at some of the state’s top teaching hospitals last week began urging people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, such as chest pains or slurred speech, or other acute illnesses or injury, not wait too long before heading to an emergency room.

Approximately 6% of the 60,265 cases of coronavirus in Massachusetts are hospitalized, according to the Department of Public Health, with just over 1,000 in the ICU.

Another 252 people in Massachusetts died after testing positive for the new coronavirus, officials reported Wednesday, marking the state's deadliest day yet in the pandemic, bringing the total number of fatalities to 3,405.

Kwolek told NBC10 Boston that — despite COVID-19 — hospitals are safe and it’s more dangerous for patients to wait. Hospitals are keeping coronavirus patients separate from others, Kwolek said, adding there is no longer a ventilator crisis.

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