Foregoing Healthcare? Don't!

EIRMC and Idaho Falls Fire Department concerned about delayed healthcare

Published online: May 04, 2020 Articles, East Idaho Health
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IDAHO FALLS -- National media has reported on a concerning trend that people are delaying or foregoing healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the delay is sometimes having major consequences.

Here locally, both EIRMC and Idaho Falls Fire Department (IFFD) share similar concerns. The numbers tell the story:  both ER volumes and in-home EMS calls are down substantially in April, but simultaneously reflect a higher number of sicker patients. 

When compared to March, the EIRMC ER has experienced a 42% reduction in patient volume. Yet, the number of inpatient admissions resulting from an ER visit has increased 20%. In fact, the number of inpatient admissions resulting from an ER visit has increased 41% since this time last year. Simply put, people seeking care in the ER are sicker than usual, and ill enough to require inpatient hospitalization.  

The increase in inpatient hospitalizations is not due to COVID-19. Instead, they are due to injury and illness that may not have needed inpatient hospitalization if medical care had been sought sooner.

EIRMC is currently treating two COVID-19 positive patients, and has only treated a total of eight. 

Dr. Kenneth Krell, Intensive Care physician, explains further. “Delayed care can have life-threatening consequences in some circumstances.  Seeking immediate care during ‘time sensitive emergencies’ such as heart attacks and stroke is vital.  But many other ailments, such as severe abdominal pain, can signal a life-threatening condition.   Delaying care for some conditions can mean that patients are sicker by the time they arrive at the ER. This can limit treatment options to address conditions, and result in a higher level of care needed, such as emergency surgery or an inpatient hospitalization. EIRMC has done, and will continue to do more than any other healthcare institution in the region to protect patients and staff.  There should be no fear about exposure, or worry about burdening our healthcare workers.”

IFFD is experiencing a similar trend. IFFD responded to 840 in-home calls in April 2019, and 507 calls in April 2020. Calls for heart-related issues are down 44%, and calls for stroke care are down 53%.

IFFD’s EMS Division Chief Eric Day says, “Our emergency crews are responding to increased numbers of emergencies where the patients have put off going to the hospital until they are critically ill. Often by the time they call, their condition requires hospital admission and longer stays in order to recover.  If you feel unwell, or have a chronic condition that is changing, do not ignore your symptoms. Contact your physician or seek evaluation in the emergency room before you are too sick to recover. Our providers have the training and protective equipment to safely get patients to the care that they need.”



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