Washington hospitals urge people not to delay care because of COVID-19 concerns

VIDEO: Washington hospitals urge people not to delay care because of COVID concerns

WASHINGTON — Leaders of Washington hospitals say visits to clinics and emergency rooms are way down because people are either afraid they’ll catch COVID-19 or because patients think the system is overrun.

In fact, hospitals have plenty of room, and on Thursday, the Washington State Hospital Association launched a campaign to discourage people from delaying care.

“Our hospitals are safe,” said Dr. Elizabeth Wako, chief medical officer at Swedish First Hill.

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Dr. Wako talked about an elderly stroke victim who was afraid to come in, and said Swedish is seeing nearly a 20% drop in people getting help for stroke symptoms.

"There are real consequences to delaying care," Dr. Wako said.

Hospitals are explaining their safety protocols to reassure patients.

EvergreenHealth, the nation’s first hospital to identify a COVID-19 outbreak, screens people at entrances, requires masks, and works to separate patients.

“We have put into place a number of tools and instruments to try and make this a much safer place,” said Dr. Francis Riedo, an epidemiologist at EvergreenHealth.

Doctors are worried about people putting off immunizations and say they’ve treated patients who delayed coming in with ruptured appendixes and heart attack symptoms.

Doctors at Seattle Children’s are concerned about parents not getting help for kids who end up being diagnosed with conditions such as new-onset diabetes.

“There are potentially times that if a child were seen sooner they wouldn’t have needed hospitalization,” said Dr. Ruth McDonald, chief medical officer for Seattle Children’s.

Hospitals are still working on restarting elective surgeries, which are a big source of revenue.

The hospital association estimates that Washington’s health system lost $900 million in March and April.