Delaying care can turn to regrettable results

September 8, 2020 Providence News Team

How bleak outcomes and preventable complications arise from waiting too long to seek care   

As the High Desert continues its fight against COVID-19, fears of contracting the virus have led to many instances of delaying care. This is the first installment of a multi-part series highlighting the effects of waiting too long to seek medical attention and the precautions St. Mary Medical Center is taking to keep our patients safe. If you or anyone you know is in need of vital emergency care, please call 9-1-1.

APPLE VALLEY (Sept. 8, 2020) – More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, a sometimes deadly and often preventable side-effect of the disease has emerged.

The fear of seeking needed medical treatment across our community has cascaded into unwarranted complications, a problem that has resulted in devastating consequences. Although concerns from contracting COVID-19 at hospitals has presented itself as a major threat to the overall health and well-being of the community, the issue has remained relatively out of public view.

According to a California Hospital Association August survey, 20 percent of respondents said they had delayed care or not sought it at all for a serious medical condition other than COVID-19 during this pandemic. Sixty-one percent cited concerns over contracting the virus when asked why they would be reluctant to seek medical care during this time.

At the local level, these fears have manifested into many instances of preventable complications, including death. While many of the more severe consequences of delaying care stem from heart attacks and strokes, the scope of the issue stretches far beyond these two medical events.

“One area where I have seen people delay care is diabetics with foot infections,” St. Mary Medical Center’s lead emergency department physician Ali Ebrahim, MD, said. “This is a complicated disease to begin with, so the earlier people seek care, the better their chances of a good outcome.

“I have seen people delay care and then require some form of amputation.”  

As the epicenter for treatment, hospitals across the country have launched extensive and rigorous safety precautions to limit the exposure of COVID-19.

At St. Mary, many preventative measures and safeguards have been taken to ensure patient safety. Among these efforts, St. Mary has established surge planning, restricted hospital access to essential personnel, created isolation pods to treat those with COVID-19 and instituted a multi-layered screening process.

St. Mary is also equipped with a COVID-19 task force of physician leaders, executives, infection-prevention staff and other regional leaders who meet daily to examine and review all safety and infection-prevention strategies. This group of physicians and caregivers are highly skilled and are dedicated to ensuring prevention measures are extensive and thorough.

Despite these safety precautions, St. Mary continues to see a sharp decline in patient volumes and emergency department visits — roughly 40 percent between March and July. Complimenting this drop off has been a stark increase in non-COVID related complications — a jarring reminder of the far-reaching and unintended effects of the disease.

“We have taken and continue to take and adjust our safety protocols to meet the latest guidelines and recommendations,” Ebrahim said. “In fact, in most ways, you will be safer in the hospital setting than in the community as everyone is required to follow guidelines.

“Please don’t be afraid to seek care.”

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