Public Fear of COVID-19 Leads to Neglect of Critical Symptoms

SFVS Staff

The diabetic patient had run out of insulin and his blood sugar had surged to nearly 20 times normal. 

“It was the highest blood sugar I have seen in nearly 20 years of emergency medicine,” said Dr. Giancarlo DiMassa, MD, assistant medical director of the emergency department at theProvidence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills. 

Another ER patient came in with a deep cut to her hand. She had waited more than a day, and it was too late to close the wound properly and avoid a permanent scar. Others with skin infections that easily could have been treated experienced worsening symptoms to the point they were admitted to the hospital and required intravenous antibiotics. 

“As we continue to care for patients with COVID-19, many of us in the ER have been amazed by how sick many of the patients are who don’t have COVID-19,” DiMassa said. “Clearly, patients are delaying desperately needed care.”

Across America, hospitals are reporting a sharp decline in emergency visits because patients with severe illness and injury fear being contaminated by COVID-19.

Providence Holy Cross wants to assure the community it is safe to seek care at the hospital. There are many layers of safety to prevent spread of the virus from COVID patients under treatment.

“We have seen several patients with time sensitive diagnoses such as stroke who delayed seeking treatment, and that led to led to irreversible deficits,” Dr. Jason Fisher, MD, medical director of the Holy Cross ER. “Delaying care for chest pain in the setting of heart attack is the same situation.  We are here to serve our community and ask people not to delay emergency care.” 

Providence hospitals across Southern California have implemented a strict, multi-layer process to ensure safety while receiving hospital care:

• The hospital has instituted a limited visitor policy including end-of-life visitation, patients who are minors, NICU parents and maternity patients.

• All employees, patients and visitors are screened for elevated temperatures before entering the hospital and may not enter with a fever. All employees are encouraged to self-screen for symptoms and temperature before coming to work.

• Should an employee develop symptoms at work, the hospital  follows CDC guidelines to self-quarantine. 

• There is a strong process for identifying and treating those patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Upon arrival, patients are greeted by an ER nurse to determine the appropriate treatment area based on their complaints and symptoms. COVID-19 patients are isolated to designated areas.  

• Universal masking — all employees wear appropriate hospital-issued masks while in the patient care setting. All patients and visitors also must wear face coverings, and will be provided with masks as needed.

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