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Health Team

Don't let fear of coronavirus keep you from going to the emergency room, doctors say

Posted December 16, 2020 11:52 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2020 1:27 a.m. EST

— The number of people coming into the emergency room for routine illness has fallen during the pandemic, UNC doctors say.

Ryan Lamb, an emergency room doctor at UNC Rex Health Care, said that he is seeing more patients come into the emergency room with treatable illnesses, but because they've waited to be seen, they don't always have the best outcome.

Dr. Ryan Lamb is urging people to go to the emergency room, and not be afraid of coronavirus.

Lamb worries that fear of the coronavirus is stopping people from getting treatment they need.

"We certainly are seeing more people die not just from COVID but from regular things that we can treat," Lamb said. "And so, it’s been a big fear of ours that people are not coming in when they should be so overall our volume is down in the emergency department.”

During the pandemic, the average wait time in emergency rooms has been 17 minutes long. If someone comes into the emergency room with chest pain, they can have an electrocardiogram (EKG) done within 10 minutes, Lamb said.

"We’re seeing people come in with stroke symptoms that we can treat within the first few hours and they’re waiting too long and therefore we can’t do normal treatments," Lamb said. "And that’s the same for heart attacks and very important emergency conditions that we’re trained and ready to take care of.”

Andy Beal, a Raleigh resident, suffered a heart attack and a major stroke in 2018. In August, he started to have tingling in his right side -- in his hand and foot. Even though he was hesitant, he still decided to seek treatment.

"It was better to be safe than sorry," he said.

Alan Beal, Raleigh resident, survived a major stroke and heart attack in 2018.

Beal is urging others to listen to their body, and not put off visits that could possibly save their life. “Don’t put it off," he said.

"Just ask yourself if it’s something normally you would do, forget about COVID-19 and do it, they’re set up," he said.

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