SALINAS, Calif. (KION) A Central Coast resident has died after suffering a heart attack and not going to the emergency room for treatment, according to the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
CHOMP says the death was due to fears over getting infected with COVID-19 that deterred the patient from going to the ER; healthcare providers there say the patient would have survived if they went in for medical help.
One ER doctor at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital tells KION she has worked with patients who waited days after having a stroke to come to the emergency room.
Hospitals around the Central Coast are seeing far fewer patients, and they are pointing the finger at fear over the COVID-19 pandemic. People are worried about showing up to the ER and being infected with the novel virus.
"We've had patients come in riding out their heart attacks at home with chest pain for five days coming in with heart failure because they didn't seek care in a timely fashion," said Dr. Misty Navarro, the SVMH emergency department vice chief.
For the daughter of an 87-year-old Salinas woman, having to go to the SVMH ER was a tricky choice; her mother had tripped and hit her head on a metal door frame.
"Just that gut feeling of do I take her as old as she is and run the risk of exposure, you know, I've been keeping her in. And then looking at it going, there's no way I can butterfly this," said Linda Forbes Hoffman.
Hoffman did end up taking her mother to the ER, much to the praise of physicians there who said it was the right call.
"They said a lot of people are choosing not to come because they're feeling about how things are managed, and they're like you are in a situation where your mother really needs to be here," said Hoffman.
"My concern is that people are not seeking care, so they're coming in a lot later in their disease process and they're sicker and they're having to stay in the hospital longer," said Dr. Navarro.
Emergency care volume at SVMH has halved since the start of the pandemic, but the hospital says there is nothing to worry about when showing up to the ER. They have a triage system set up before anyone enters, separating patients who have COVID-19-like symptoms from those for other emergencies.
"We're taking all the precautions doing deep cleaning after these patients are seen, so I want to just reassure the public that we're doing everything we can to protect our patients and staff," said Dr. Navarro.
"(People with emergencies) need to get there. They need to go... they're going to be well taken care of. They don't need to worry or fear at all about going to the emergency room. Things are so separate that they will be fine," said Hoffman.
SVMH says they still have enough capacity to handle regular ER patients even if there is a surge of COVID-19 cases at the hospital.