Delayed emergency care during pandemic can have tragic consequences


Delayed emergency care during pandemic can have tragic consequences

Pandemic or not, it’s critical to seek medical care immediately in an emergency.
Across the country, health care organizations have reported a worrisome decline in patients seeking care for emergency conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a dangerous trend that’s occurring in our region, too.
“We are seeing some people who are waiting too long to come to the hospital,” says Dr. William Richmond, an emergency medicine physician and director of emergency services at Tidelands Health, our region’s largest health care provider. “That’s very concerning when you are experiencing something serious such as a heart attack, stroke, bad infection or fall.
“When you delay getting care, it can have significant impacts on your long-term health, and it can even be fatal. Tragically, we’ve seen that happen already during the pandemic.”


Dr. Richmond says he suspects some people are reluctant to come to hospitals and other care locations because they’re concerned about being exposed to the COVID-19 coronavirus, but he says it’s important to remember that Tidelands Health has been caring for people with infectious illnesses since the health system’s inception 70 years ago.
“Taking care of people when they’re ill – while keeping others around them healthy – is what we do,” Dr. Richmond says. “The greatest risk for a patient’s health at this time would be to unnecessarily postpone care.”
To help reassure community members it’s safe to receive both the regular and emergency medical care they need, Tidelands Health launched “Safe in Our Care,” a series of enhanced safety protocols in place at each of the health system’s 60-plus care locations.

The ‘Safe in Our Care’ commitment

Tidelands Health has implemented extra precautions to keep you safe while you get the medical care you need. Learn more about the health system’s “Safe in Our Care” commitment by clicking here. 

The initiative includes Safe Care Navigators, who screen patients for symptoms of COVID-19, provide hand sanitizer for hand hygiene and remind individuals to wear a face covering or mask, enhanced check-in and check-out procedures, designated social distancing zones and enhancements to the organization’s already-stringent cleaning protocols in lobbies and exam rooms, among many other measures.
“It’ s safe to get the care you need,” Dr. Richmond says. “And if you think you might need emergency care, you need to receive it now – not tomorrow. Call 911 immediately.”


Delaying emergency care for only a short period can have serious long-term health implications even if you survive, Dr. Richmond says.
Waiting to seek care for a heart attack, for example, can increase damage to the heart and its ability to pump blood.
Delaying care for stroke can cause more severe and lasting impairment.
“The bottom line is this: if you think you need care, come in and see us,” Dr. Richmond says. “We’re here, and we’re ready to provide the care you need.”

Meet the Expert

Dr. William Richmond

Dr. William Richmond, an experienced emergency medicine physician, is director of emergency services at Tidelands Health.

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