Doctors seeing fewer patients at hospitals for critical care during pandemic


KANSAS CITY, Mo. — An unexpected byproduct of the pandemic threatens to shorten lives.

Doctors report they’re seeing fewer patients coming to hospitals for care amid concerns of catching COVID-19 while they’re at medical care facilities. One physician described it to FOX4 as being “an all-new public health crisis.”

Rodney Curren, 59, can’t imagine where he’d be if he hadn’t gone for help. Curren, a retired maintenance worker from Kansas City’s Old Northeast, recalled 2018, when he thought the pain in his back was gain pains. It turned out to be a heart attack. Curren and his wife, Shirley, said he needed a surgery to install three stents. 

“A lot of people are just scared of hospitals anyway,” Curren said. “This gives them a better reason not to go. They think they’re all carrying COVID.”

Curren echoes the advice of doctors, who remind patients not to neglect self-care during the pandemic. February is National Heart Month, a memory jog for everyone to keep track of their health.

Physicians at Truman Medical Center said they saw a 40% drop in patients reporting for critical care at the height of the pandemic, a quarter of whom had symptoms that needed emergency care.

“Delaying that care comes at an irreparable cost,” said Dr. Paramdeep Baweja, a cardiologist in charge of Truman Medical Center’s heart catheterization lab. “When delays occur, not only are we looking at increased rates of death from critical issues where heart attacks and strokes are big and people don’t get the care for it, but even if people survive, there’s more of a risk for complications.”

Leaders at St. Luke’s Health System said they led a successful campaign last year, reminding patients not to neglect caring for themselves during COVID times. At Truman Med, Baweja said staffers who are earmarked for specialties, such as cardiology, were never strained by loads of COVID patients.

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