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Patients avoiding local emergency rooms to steer clear of COVID-19

One dangerous fallout from the pandemic is that many people are avoiding going to the emergency room when they really need to be there.

CLEVELAND — Locally and nationally, hospitals are seeing a sharp decline in the number of patients going to the emergency room for critical events, such as heart attacks and strokes. 

The reasons have doctors even more concerned. 

It happened at Cleveland Clinic. 

"Someone having a stroke for three days and when I asked him why didn't you come in, he said 'I wasn't sure if I could and I was scared of what might be in the ER'," said Dr. Jim Mark.

It also happened at University Hospitals. 

"When I asked him why didn't you come to the emergency room, he said, 'Dr. Shishebor I have four children and I'd rather die at home than go to the emergency room'," recalls Dr. Mehdi Shishehbor.

Dr. Shishebor says UH sees about 80 of the worst types of heart attacks a month. At Cleveland Clinic, they've already noticed a near-20% decline in Northeast Ohio hospitals, and not because they're not happening. 

"We have a lot of people with chest pains or stroke symptoms that seem to be afraid to come in," Dr. Mark explains. "We want people to be reassured that they can come into the ER and not be exposed to other people. We have areas within the ER that are safe zones.

"We don't want anyone sitting at home with a potential heart attack thinking that they have COVID or they don't want to get an infection," adds Dr. Shishebor. "We want them to get a second opinion."

At the very least, if you have any concerning symptoms, call your doctor and get a professional opinion of whether or not you need emergency care.

Click here for our coronavirus section.

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