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Doctors urge patients to seek care when needed

Mary Beth TeSelle
Special to The Union
The Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital in Grass Valley.
Elias Funez/efunez@theunion.com

Don’t wait to seek care

Don’t ignore symptoms of heart attack or stroke. The American College of Cardiology urges anyone showing symptoms to seek care immediately.

Heart Attack Symptoms:

­­— Chest pain

­­— Difficulty breathing

­­— Discomfort in chest, arms, back, neck, shoulder or jaw

Stroke Symptoms:

­­— Numbness, weakness or loss of movement in your face, leg or arm, especially on one side

­­— Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

­­— Loss of balance

Call 911 immediately if you think you may be having a heart attack or stroke.

This week Californians enter what will be our third month of precautionary measures aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus COVID-19.

While our actions have helped to slow the spread of the virus, there has been one unintended consequence reported by hospitals around the country: a reluctance to seek medical care quickly even in an emergency.

This alarming trend is especially concerning for patients at risk for heart disease and stroke – two conditions that require immediate care and treatment.

Locally, Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital has policies and procedures in place to ensure that emergency care can be provided safely to all who need it.

“The safety and care of our patients and staff is always our top priority. We certainly understand the concern, but we want our community to know that our hospital is open and it’s safe to receive care,” says Dr. Brian Evans, SNMH President and CEO.

“Our primary concern is that people may be ignoring symptoms and delaying medical care. This is not good for the patient and could potentially exacerbate the condition.”

Last month the American College of Cardiology addressed this phenomenon, issuing a statement that cited numerous anecdotal reports that hospitals throughout the U.S. have been treating fewer patients than normal for heart attack and stroke symptoms since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospitals like SNMH not only continue to be available and ready to treat all emergencies, including heart attack and stroke, but they are also taking the utmost precautions to ensure the safety of patients and caregivers.

“We have limited visitation and implemented universal masking for staff and patients, and have increased cleaning and sanitation procedures in all areas of the hospital,” explains Dr. Evans.

“Additionally, if a patient presents to our Emergency Department with symptoms consistent with COVID-19, he/she is immediately separated from other patients and examined in a separate area.”

When it comes to the treatment of heart attack and stroke, time is critical. The faster a patient is treated, the higher the outcome of survival and lower the risk for complications.

The ACC urges patients who need critical care to seek the treatment they need instead of delaying it out of fear.

They point out that when patients experiencing a heart attack or stroke delay their essential care, they cause a new public health crisis.

“We know that time and early intervention save lives,” Dr. Evans says. “So if someone is experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, abdominal pain, or any other unexplained change in their health, it’s imperative that they immediately seek medical attention.”

Patients with a pre-existing heart condition need to be particularly alert to symptoms of a potential heart attack or stroke and call 911 immediately.

For people living with chronic conditions, including heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, keeping up with routine care is important too.

Talk to your doctor about whether a telehealth visit (a video visit via computer, tablet or smart phone) or a phone call may be appropriate.

Bottom line, according to Dr. Evans: Emergency medical care continues to be important and your community hospital continues to be available to provide it.

“Our mission calls us to serve our community and that’s what we are here to do. We are starting to resume some elective procedures and services, and know that this is one of the best ways Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital can help our community heal from the COVID-19 pandemic. Bottom line – we are here for you.”


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