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

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- Triangle emergency departments are reporting a decrease in non-COVID 19 patients.

WakeMed said the community is following stay-at-home guidelines and avoiding hospital emergency rooms for anything other than life-threatening symptoms or traumas.

But some officials are concerned that people suffering heart attacks or strokes--where timing is critical--may be delaying care, WakeMed spokeswoman Kristin Kelly said.

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The American Heart Association of the Triangle posted a video on its Facebook page saying, "Even during a pandemic, emergency systems are ready to help. Serious symptoms like those associated with a heart attack or stroke are still considered urgent."

Dr. Fernando Gonzalez is the co-director of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery and a professor of neurosurgery at Duke University. He said the B.E. F.A.S.T. acronym could help you know if you're experiencing a stroke and need to get immediate care:

  • B is for Balance--sudden dizziness

  • E is for Eyes--having trouble seeing


  • F is for Facial weakness

  • A is for Arm weakness

  • S is for Speech that is impaired or slurred

  • T is for Time

Click here for more on stroke symptoms

"Yes we need to have the social isolation as a number one priority but at the same time, the trade-off is gigantic," Gonzalez said. "Missing the opportunity to treat a patient with a stroke in a very narrow window, it's a huge missed opportunity. If you're a patient and you're watching me and you experience one of these symptoms, please call 911."

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For patients who may be afraid to get exposed to COVID-19 if they go to the ER, Kelly said WakeMed has triage tents, where patients with COVID-19 symptoms go. They are separated from non-COVID 19 patients.

"Once you are in the hospital, the precautions that we have are huge," Gonzalez said. "Everybody's wearing a mask right now in the hospital. Even the mental personnel and the visitors--the limited amount of visitors that are in the hospital--are wearing a mask. Patients are wearing a mask. That reduces exposure."

Kelly said hospitals are safe and not to delay care if you have symptoms other than COVID-19, especially when time is critical.
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