North Carolina hospitals urge patients to not avoid critical care due to COVID-19 fears

COVID-19 remains a huge priority at all of the area's hospitals but things are slowly starting look and feel more normal.

At WakeMed, hospital staff began removing the triage tents outside Monday.

While it's seen as a positive shift, convincing everyday people that hospitals are indeed safe places to be amid the pandemic may be a harder task.

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"I think patients are more hesitant during a pandemic to seek care," said Dr. Roxie Wells, a family physician and president of Cape Fear Valley Hoke Hospital about another growing health concern as the world battles COVID-19; more patients choosing to avoid hospital and emergency rooms out of concern over exposure to the coronavirus.
"Delaying critical care can be extremely dangerous," Wells said. "And we've seen increases in cardiac arrests and death from cardiac arrest that occur at home or other venues."

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These are patients experiencing chest pain, which may be a heart attack; Slurred speech, that could be stroke; or abdominal discomfort that could be appendicitis. Patients who put off the doctor because of misplaced fear of catching the coronavirus at their health care provider.

"But of course, hospitals are prepared to care for people," Wells said. "We have gone to extreme lengths to make sure staff and patients are well cared for and our safe."



After advising local hospitals to suspend elective surgeries, at the start of the crisis, the state's Health and Human Services Secretary, Dr. Mandy Cohen, on Monday, pleaded with patients to reconnect with their primary care doctors - insisting the time for delaying traditional health care is now over.

Health care workers concerned heart attack, stroke patients may be delaying care in light of COVID-19

"Don't put off that mammogram or that vaccine any more. Call today and get back on the schedule," Dr. Cohen said.

Dr. Wells said after years of lobbying regulators to allow for expanded use of telehealth, video chats with your doctor and nurses, she's happy to see a growing reliance on the technology.

"The best way to think of it is you are truly sitting in front of your doctor. You're just not physically in that space," Wells said. "And i think it has shed light on the fact that we are capable of doing it. And patients actually enjoy it."

Back at WakeMed, all three of the hospital's campuses began reintroducing time-sensitive surgeries last week. The health system said its goal is to be back to 100 percent surgery volumes by June 1.
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