Hospitals Tamp Down on COVID-19 Concerns for Stroke, Heart Attack Patients

Doctors tell NBC 6 stroke and heart attack patients are not coming into hospitals for fears of contracting COVID-19. They worry it will cause long term damage.

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What to Know

  • Hospitals say people have stopped calling 9-1-1 out of fears of contracting coronavirus
  • Doctors have seen a concerning decrease in heart attack and stroke patients coming in
  • Broward Health and Cleveland Clinic are waiting on DeSantis's word to resume medical and elective surgical procedures

Doctors at Broward Health say people suffering from strokes and heart attacks should not worry about contracting COVID-19 at hospitals. The hospital system plans to resume scheduling patients for priority medical and elective surgical procedures when the state gives them the go ahead.

Many in the healthcare community expect the action to come from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s office in the coming days, as his task force to reopen Florida gave its recommendations.

Hospital chains say people have stopped calling 9-1-1 for fears of contracting the contagious coronavirus.

Dr. Celso Agner, an interventional neurologist at Broward Health, told NBC 6 that in January he’d work on fifteen to twenty stroke patients a week. Now, that’s cut in half. People are not coming in when they have strokes.

“Every minute counts. The time that you wait, the more brain cells are being dead. If it’s a large stroke, it comes to the point of being irreversible,” said Dr. Agner.

It’s an issue nationwide.

The American Heart Association has started a campaign, reminding people to call 9-1-1 for possible heart attacks and strokes despite COVID-19 patients being inside hospitals. Most hospitals have dedicated COVID-19 units or wings where they separate positive from negative patients.

Data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration shows almost 1,700 hospital beds in Broward County sit empty - around 32 percent of the entire bed number. 40 percent of beds sit empty in Miami-Dade County.

“Then comes the fear of a lot of people. They’re afraid of going to the hospital and being infected,” said Dr. Agner.

Large social distancing measures, like quarantines and stay at home orders, have successfully stopped hospitals from being overwhelmed in Florida.

On Saturday, DeSantis told NBC 6 at a Cleveland Clinic press conference, people should not fear going into hospitals.

“You have availability. We don’t have the resources being taxes as they are in some other states throughout the state of Florida,” said DeSantis.

Just like Broward Health, Cleveland Clinic says it looks forward to opening up soon for elective surgeries.

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