Doctors Urge WNY: Do Not Delay Critical Care

Nearly 50% decrease in patients who came in to hospitals with stroke

Triage tent set up outside of Mercy Hospital in Buffalo. March 27, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Triage tent set up outside of Mercy Hospital in Buffalo. March 27, 2020 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) - Local doctors are continuing to plead with the community not to ignore the signs of serious health problems, including stroke, during the Coronavirus crisis.

Dr. Lee Guterman, Head of Neurosurgery at Mercy Hospital, is among those warning that delaying care could lead to serious health issues.

“What we’ve noticed in March and April was a severe decrease decrease in the number of patients presenting with stroke to the emergency department,” Guterman said.

Throughout Catholic health, it was nearly a 50% decrease in the amount of patients who came in to hospitals with stroke symptoms at the beginning of the pandemic. Today, the number is still down around 25%.

“If you’re having blurred vision, slurred speech, weakness on one side of your body… even if it goes away after five minutes or an hour, you need to come to the hospital. Don’t stay home.”

While messaging at the beginning of the pandemic was to avoid the hospitals and call your primary care physician with problems, Guterman said that there is currently no fear of overloading Western New York hospitals. At Mercy Hospital, ICU bed occupancy never exceeded 50%.

Guterman also said that fear of catching the virus inside a hospital is not warranted by those with health problems. Across Catholic Health hospitals, COVID patients have been moved to St. Joseph’s hospital to free capacity across the other hospitals in the system.

Another reason people may be avoiding hospitals? Fear of being left alone.

With hospital visitations suspended across the state, the decision to go into a hospital is also a decision to leave the company of loved ones.

“There’s nothing like having your loved ones right there, being with you,” said Shirley Johnson, Chief Clinical Operations Officer at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We’ve heard that from some of our patients who have chosen to delay some of their care, not wanting to come because a loved one wouldn’t be able to be near them,” Johnson said.

Roswell Park is now part of a State-wide pilot program that allows visitors to return in a limited capacity at a handful of hospitals.

Johnson said that switch has correlated in more people coming back to the hospital over the past week. There is no indication when visitors may be able to return to hospitals on a larger scale.

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