Hospitals see surge in non-COVID-19 patients

NOW: Hospitals see surge in non-COVID-19 patients

ST. JOSEPH, Mich. – In the last 6 weeks or so hospitals like Memorial have seen a drop in the number of non-COVID-19 patients coming in.

But now it seems things are changing. As states loosen restrictions, people are getting more comfortable leaving the house to seek medical treatment.

One ER doctor telling ABC57 the decision to wait could wind up doing more harm than good.

“What we originally saw was at least a 30 to 40% drop in our normal numbers for ERs across the board,” Dr. Robert Nolan, the Medical Director of the Emergency Departments at Spectrum Health Lakeland in St. Joseph said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic hits the Michiana area, the number of emergency room visits and 9-1-1 calls dropped.

“March is when we get we got the state home order, right. So then we went down from 640 to 570. So that's a pretty drastic decrease. And then last month, it was 470. So another hundred calls per day that we weren't dispatching,” Raymond Schultz Executive Director St. Joseph County 911 said.

But now, a shift, as states ease restrictions and get ready to reopen.

“As soon as the governor announced that it was reopening on Monday, Friday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday were like it like it was last year, people started to venture out,” Schultz said. “There was just more calls.”

"We're now at about 30 to 35% of the people that we see are getting admitted, they're just that much sicker. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that they haven't had some of that routine care or they've delayed emergency care,” Dr. Nolan said.

Dr. Nolan said the decision to wait, is coming with a big price. Hospitals are seeing a sudden spike in patients. Many of those admitted are even sicker than they would have been if they would’ve sought treatment sooner.

“They're not seeking emergent treatment for some of these things that we could probably treat and save them, and instead are staying home and then suffering heart attacks or suffering strokes and things along that line,” he said. “I think a lot of these folks because they're afraid to go in either get primary care or they're afraid to come to an emergency department, these are being postponed so that by the time they do see care, they're much sicker than they ever were before. And it makes it much harder to try to treat them at that point.”

Symptoms like chest pains or irregular heartbeat could’ve been identified by a doctor and treated for bigger problems like heart attacks and stroke.

“A lot of these disease processes that, you know, if you intervene earlier, we can get to it and have a much better outcome,” he said. “What we're seeing is a backlog of care that probably should have been occurring for the last six weeks.”

Dr. Nolan says that if something feels off with your health, you should go to see a doctor.

There are a lot of ways to see a doctor without meeting with them in person. Especially since there are options to meet virtually through video conferencing platforms.

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