Emergency room doctors worried about non-COVID-19 patients

SAN ANTONIO – While most of the attention these days is on treating people with coronavirus, local emergency room personnel are worried about other patients they normally see.

For some reason, there is a lack of patients reporting to emergency rooms for problems such as a heart attack.

“Usually, you would maybe see an average of one or two of them a day. We’re lucky if we’re seeing any of them some days of the week. So, it’s down a lot," said Dr. Ralph Riviello, University Health System Chair of Emergency Medicine.

It’s not just at University Hospital.

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Local health care professionals are universally seeing the trend, and they, too, are troubled because those with chronic or catastrophic conditions alike need to be seen as soon as possible when they are showing signs of illness.

“Certain conditions like heart attacks, the longer you go, the more damage there is to heart muscle. There’s the possibility of developing irregular heartbeats and some of those irregular heartbeats can actually be lethal,” Riviello said.

The message from emergency room personnel is simple: You should not be scared to go to the hospital if you’re not feeling well. Because there is plenty of hospital space in South Texas right now, COVID-19 patients can be placed in special isolation rooms and private rooms. There are also serious protocols for virus containment, plus all hospital staff and incoming patients are tested for coronavirus immediately. Additionally, all staff are screened daily with temperature checks and more.

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If you are having uncomfortable symptoms, such as tightness in the chest or feeling rundown, or even simply experiencing abdominal pain, it could be a sign of any number of serious conditions that require immediate intervention at the hospital.

You can still get immediate help by calling 911.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late December 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March. The first case confirmed in the U.S. was in mid-January and the first case confirmed in San Antonio was in mid-February.


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