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Scared to death: ER docs say people are dying because they’re afraid to seek medical care during pandemic

Visits to the ER in Lakeland have dropped by nearly 50 percent.

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Emergency room at Lakeland’s main hospital would normally see around 700 patients a day.   But over the past three weeks, doctors at Lakeland Regional Health say they’ve barely seen 300 patients a day.   Many of those who do show up they say, are gravely ill after waiting too long to seek medical attention.

“We will typically see lots of heart attacks, strokes, orthopedic injuries, surgical emergencies, that we’re really not seeing right now,” said Dr. Timothy Regan.  “The medical staff are worried people may be staying unnecessarily at home for fear of contracting COVID-19 virus.”

Regan says his hospital has taken extraordinary precautions to keep patients safe from COVID-19, essentially separating the hospital and it’s emergency department into two separate facilities, one side for those at risk of having COVID-19, and another side for those with no symptoms who likely have not been exposed.

But despite those precautions, Regan says the hospital’s doctors have seen patients die or face permanent harm from waiting too long before coming to the hospital.

“We’ve had stories where people have fallen, then sit at home unable to move and then developed blood clots to their lungs because they didn’t have their broken hip taken care of,” said Regan.  

Other patients have died of heart attacks after ignoring chest pains or become septic after ignoring abdominal pain.

“Really, our medical center is the safest place in the community. Where else do have so many experts that know how to use protective equipment and how to identify patients at risk,” said Dr. Regan.  “We are doing our best to give people confidence to come to the medical center if they need help.”

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