BOSTON (WHDH) - Gov. Charlie Baker on Thursday said Massachusetts residents should not be “delaying life-saving treatment” for different medical problems “out of fear” of contracting the coronavirus as hospital officials reported a sharp decline in emergency room visits for health ailments like heart attacks, strokes, and cancer and dialysis care.
“We know these medical conditions didn’t stop when COVID-19 picked up,” Baker said during a news conference at the State House. “It’s important that people are cared for when they’re sick, whether that’s for COVID-19 or for something else.”
Baker explained that hospitals across the Commonwealth were able to retain an adequate amount of beds for people with other medical needs as preparations were made for a surge in coronavirus cases.
He noted that more than 50 percent of the states 18,000 hospital beds that were made available under “surge planning” are now empty.
Fear of coronavirus is sparking a major drop in patients arriving at hospitals, healthcare officials said, and people experiencing chest pains, slurred speech, and other acute illnesses are waiting too long before visiting a nearby emergency room.
Baker was joined by Gregg Myers of Partners HealthCare, Tufts Medical Center CEO Michael Apkon, and Baystate Medical Center President Nancy L. Shendell-Falik, who all shared the same message: hospitals are prepared to care for everyone and safety measures are in place to guard against the spread coronavirus.
“We have the beds, we have the physicians, we have the nurses,” Myers said. “Do not let fear of COVID-19 keep you from the urgent care you need.”
Apkon said his concern is that fear of the virus is leading to adverse outcomes for those suffering from issues that require immediate treatment.
“We’ve seen children coming to the hospital after having several days of abdominal pain and coming with a ruptured appendix. We’ve seen patients with symptoms of stroke that are staying at home long beyond the point at which medications that would markedly improve their outcome could safely be delivered,” Apkon said.
Shendell-Falik said her hospital has seen an 80 percent decline in emergency room visits in recent weeks.
“We have seen patients, an 80 percent decline, with stroke symptoms — meaning speech impairment, visual changes — wait at home and not seek care,” Shendell-Falik said. “That was one month ago, a total of an 80 percent decline. Those patients are starting to arrive at Baystate Medical Center. They are seriously ill, and many of them have lifelong, debilitating consequences for waiting.”
Hospital officials said another reason for a possible drop in emergency room visits are fewer car accidents and less workplace stress because of Baker’s stay-home advisory.
“We don’t want people getting sicker or exacerbating an illness or an injury,” Baker added.
The Baker administration also played a message from the Boston medical community that urged residents to seek medical care if needed. A series of similar public service announcement will be played on all Boston television stations starting Thursday.
Watch the PSA below:
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