EDITORIAL: Don’t let COVID-19 fears keep you from seeking medical help

Hospitals, clinics cleaned regularly, maintain strict protocols

‘If you are sick and need help, hospitals are safe and ready to look after you.”

These words were posted on Twitter by a Calgary cardiologist in April, after he had been unable to save a patient the previous night because, he said, that person had waited too long to seek help.

One of the unfortunate side effects of this global health crisis has been the unnecessary toll it is taking on people with medical conditions entirely unrelated to the coronavirus.

People have not stopped suffering heart attacks, strokes, serious falls or seizures simply because we are in the midst of a pandemic, notes Dr. Alan Drummond, with the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians.

Many are not seeking the help they desperately need. And it’s happening, medical professionals say, for a few reasons.

Patients report being afraid of contracting COVID-19 as one reason for avoiding visiting a hospital or clinic. But many also have voiced concerns about overloading the system or inadvertently transmitting the virus to medical staff.

In B.C., hospital visits for non COVID-19 related issues are starting to rebound after dropping sharply in March and April, but there are people who remain fearful.

Some of our readers have asked us why we don’t publish numbers of COVID-19 patients at Peace Arch Hospital, so that they know whether it’s safe to go there. One reason we don’t is that the health authority doesn’t provide them. Unless there is an outbreak or another reason for the public to take added precautions, cases are announced only by health region, not by individual hospital.

Part of the logic behind that, it would seem, is to avoid causing undue levels of concern among residents about seeking medical attention if they feel they need it.

We’re assured that hospitals and other medical facilities are among the safest places to be right now, because of the level of care that goes into cleaning them and ensuring that proper protocols are in place.

It’s human nature, of course, to be anxious in situations we perceive as possible threats to our lives or safety, and not having all the information we want can certainly add to that stress.

But when we don’t have the level of control we’d like, we must rely on the experts put in place to help keep us safe.

So far, here in B.C., we think that faith has been well-founded.

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