LIMA — The resurgence of coronavirus last fall may have led to another concerning trend: a reluctance to seek emergency medical care.
“Early on, we stressed not to overload the healthcare system; not to come to the emergency department if you didn’t have to, that kind of thing,” said Dr. Dennis Morris, chief medical officer and vice president of medical affairs for Lima Memorial Health System.
Now, Morris is seeing more patients who are delaying medical care in emergencies.
Patients with chest pain, for example, are waiting two or three days before presenting to the emergency department and “putting themselves in harm’s way” by waiting too long, Morris said.
Those concerns first surfaced last spring, when hospitals halted elective procedures to ensure they had enough personal protective equipment, beds and staff available to handle any surge in COVID-19 patients, and resurfaced last fall when the Lima region saw a rapid escalation in coronavirus cases that strained local hospitals.
New COVID-19 admissions at Lima hospitals have stabilized in recent weeks, while other regions of the state have seen intensive care units surge past 80% capacity this month, suggesting that a surge in hospitalizations tied to holiday gatherings may not come to pass in the Lima region.
“We’re cautiously optimistic at best, given our journey through the last few weeks,” said Dr. Matthew Owens, chief clinical officer for Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, which was treating 66 COVID-19 patients as of Thursday morning.
The hospital is still altering plans for elective surgeries and other non-emergency care, Owens said, because the COVID patient census remains high.
Ohio hospitals admitted more than 241 new COVID-19 patients in the last 24 hours, down from the 21-day average and the late December peak of 560 new admissions reported in a single day.