Are people who need help avoiding hospitals?

Published: Apr. 9, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT
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Health care professionals have been telling patients to stay out of emergency rooms if they are only showing mild symptoms of COVID-19. But that has led to a drop in visits to hospitals in general, meaning people with other ailments may not be getting the care they need.

Our Dom Amato spoke with medical professionals in Rutland and Burlington who said they have seen about half the patients they normally would in the ER. Health officials want you to know they are still available to help.

"My biggest concern is that there is fear," said Kristin Baker, the nurse manager at the UVM Medical Center emergency room.

The waiting room at the UVM Medical Center emergency department is not as busy as usual. Officials say the hospital has seen about a 50% decrease in visits.

"We're very concerned that people are sitting at home getting increasingly ill, and we're actually seeing them finally present to the ER at a much later stage on their illness that we probably could have done something about had they come in earlier," Baker said.

Baker says she's thankful people are not coming in with mild coronavirus symptoms but she says if you need any emergency care-- coronavirus or other ailments-- they are prepared.

"Please don't be scared," she said. "We're here to care for you and we can do it safely."

"Please, if you have a broken leg or something more substantial, chest pain, evidence of something going on, concern about a stroke or heart attack, please go to the emergency room," said Dr. Melbourne Boynton, the chief medical officer at the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

Boynton says depending on the day, they're seeing a 30%-50% decrease in ER visits at the Rutland Regional Medical Center.

"I think there's two things. I think people aren't quite as active," he said. "The other thing that's happened is people have stopped having routine medical appointments, so there's more capacity at the local doctor's office."

Boynton says Rutland Regional has also more than doubled their capacity for critical care from 12 to around 30.

Three people are currently in the ICU there with COVID-19.

"We hope we don't have to go to 30, of course, but it gives you a sense of what the hospital has done to scale up and be ready," Boynton said.

And beyond the capacity in the ICU at hospitals, officials at the UVM Medical Center say there are beds available for any patient when any emergency happens.

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