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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Non-COVID patients are skipping ER visits. That can be dangerous

Sailors prepare March 29 to admit patients aboard the hospital ship Mercy, which is docked at the Port of Los Angeles.
Sailors prepare March 29 to admit patients aboard the hospital ship Mercy, which is docked at the Port of Los Angeles.
(U.S. Navy)

To the editor: Fear of COVID-19 infection is keeping people from seeking appropriate care for urgent and emergency conditions. (“Inside California hospitals as they wait for coronavirus surge,” April 4)

We at Hoag, along with staff at other hospitals, are noticing a significant drop in emergency department visits for strokes, heart attacks and other major acute problems. We are seeing patients coming in too late for salvaging acute conditions, with resulting detriment to their health.

Up to 85% of those infected with COVID-19 do not need medical attention, and more than 99% survive. That is not the case with strokes and heart attacks that require immediate attention.

Widespread fear can be detrimental to your individual health. Please use common sense if sudden onset of severe chest pain, shortness of breath, altered consciousness, visual change, speech difficulty or limb weakness appears. Balance the potential very small risk of COVID-19 infection in a well-run emergency department with the real risk of delayed intervention in an emergency.

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Michael Brant-Zawadzki, MD, Newport Beach

The writer is senior physician executive at Hoag Hospital.

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To the editor: I had to go to the emergency room recently. It wasn’t for COVID-19, but rather worsening abdominal pain.

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Being in the hospital was fascinating. I waited outside for a person dressed in what looks like a hazmat suit to take my temperature. I was then taken directly to a cubicle in the emergency room, where there was a bed waiting for me.

Every time a patient had to be transported from one place to another, the hallways were cleared. So, you lie on your gurney and travel down empty hallways. Every three hours they announced, “Staff, disinfect your stations.”

My favorite announcement was, “Staff, the eagle has landed.” My nurse explained that the local community was so generous, constantly bringing food, so the announcement meant that something had been delivered to the staff lounge.

I could hear workers speaking in the hallways; frequently, they discussed gloves and masks. I was so impressed by their good spirit — you could tell the nurses and other staff felt they were in this together.

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I am sequestered at home now, isolated in my bedroom for two weeks to protect the rest of the sisters in my convent. Still, I smile when I think of the great team that took care of me for a few days.

Nancy Uhl, Los Angeles


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