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NYC doctor says ERs are 'eerily quiet': 'How many patients are dying of treatable heart attacks at home?'


Patients may need help, but fear COVID-19 exposure

A view of NYC Health + Hospital (formerly named Queens General Hospital) on Thursday in the New York borough of Queens, New York. (John Nacion/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A New York City emergency room doctor wrote in the New York Post that the emergency room where she works has been unusually quite recently, and she's concerned about what might be happening to patients who are too scared of COVID-19 exposure to go get treatment.

While the main hospital deals with the more complicated coronavirus patients who need extended care, the emergency room has felt the impact of COVID-19 in a different way. Dr. Snehalata Topgi writes:

By 11 p.m., the rest of my shift is eerily quiet. I wonder, "How many patients are dying of treatable heart attacks at home? Where are my stroke patients? Where are the cuts and broken bones?" People that should be coming to the ER for help may be too scared. Where is the man with high-risk chest pain who needs vessel intervention? Where is the elderly woman with a two-hour limp left arm and trouble speaking who needs stroke treatment? I worry. I know that they are at home, avoiding the hospital and a possible COVID infection, but likely needing life-saving interventions.

New York City has seen an alarming increase in home deaths in recent weeks, which some have attributed to undiagnosed COVID-19 infections. Indeed, some of those home deaths are being called "presumed" coronavirus deaths, even without being confirmed by a test.

Some, like Dr. Topgi, wonder whether some of those deaths are due to preventable conditions that would normally be treated in an emergency room.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in unique health care situations in the U.S. Some hospitals, mostly in New York City, have been overwhelmed at times with patient volume. But some emergency rooms or hospitals find themselves empty, to the point that tens of thousands of health care workers have been laid off and some hospitals have closed altogether.

Widespread bans on nonessential medical procedures, enacted for the purpose of preserving personal protective equipment and dedicating all staff and resources to COVID-19 preparedness, have proven unnecessary in some areas of the country that have not experienced significant outbreaks.

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