Fear of coronavirus (COVID-19) keeping people with heart symptoms away from ERs: STAT

Filed Under: Costs, Patients, Providers

“Stayc Simpson’s blood pressure readings are all over the place. Her heart rate is fluctuating wildly,” Usha Lee McFarling writes at STAT. “After struggling with heart failure and coronary artery disease for 15 years, undergoing a double bypass, and living with an implanted pacemaker and defibrillator, she knows her numbers aren’t good. She’s really worried. But fears about infection with the novel coronavirus, and a terrifying recent experience in an emergency room, have her steadfastly refusing to return to the hospital. ‘At what point do I think it’s OK to go to the ER?’ asked the Miami resident. ‘I just don’t know. If there were no Covid, there’s no question I’d go.’ Simpson is not alone. A survey of nine major hospitals earlier this month showed the number of severe heart attacks being treated in U.S hospitals had dropped by nearly 40% since the novel coronavirus took hold in March, leaving cardiologists worried about a second wave of deaths caused indirectly by Covid-19: patients so afraid to enter hospitals that they are dying at home or waiting so long to seek care that they’re going to suffer massive damage to their hearts or brains. Some call it ‘a virus of fear.’ ‘The whole community is discussing this, asking where are all of our patients?’ said Martha Gulati, chief of cardiology at the University of Arizona. ‘There’s nothing we’ve done overnight that has cured heart disease.’ The same is true for appendicitis and stroke. Clinicians say patients with these life-threatening conditions have also stopped seeking treatment in large numbers. ‘My worry is some of these people are dying at home because they’re too scared to go to the hospital,’ Gulati said.” “Covid phobia keeping people with heart symptoms away from ERs,” STAT.