Clark County Public Health and several local healthcare providers are urging residents not to be dissuaded by the COVID-19 pandemic when seeking emergency care for symptoms of serious health issues like strokes and heart attacks.
Public Health, along with Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center and Vancouver Clinic, reminded residents that local emergency departments take precautions to safely see patients and remain fully operational to treat patients with non-COVID-19 emergencies, the groups stated in a news release Wednesday, April 22.
PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center Emergency Medicine Director Jason Hanley said his hospital had seen a 50-percent drop in average daily emergency department visits, adding that there were several cases of patients who delayed care for serious health issues — like heart attacks or strokes — to the point it had impacted their health outcome.
Hanley said PeaceHealth had taken a number of safety precautions, such as meeting patients at the entrance of the emergency department, as well as triaging and masking patients outside the entrance to limit potential contact between those with potential COVID-19 and others.
Dan Bissell, with emergency services at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center, said the hospital’s emergency departments were limiting time patients stay in waiting rooms, and staff practices appropriate social distancing. Legacy Health also requires masks for all employees if a six-foot distance was not possible, even in administrative areas.
Those experiencing stroke, heart attack or other emergency symptoms should seek immediate medical care, the groups stated, as delaying a 911 call or emergency room visit could result in “severe long term health consequences, including death.”
“We know that calling 911 to seek immediate care saves lives,” Vancouver Clinic Cardiologist Ben John said. “As a cardiologist, I never want to see one of my patients delay getting the care they need. I know with COVID-19 patients have concerns coming into the office or going to the hospital. I’d like to remind our community to call for an ambulance if you or someone you love has an immediate need, like chest pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach and shortness of breath — all warning signs of a heart attack.”
Know the signs and symptoms
Remember these signs and symptoms for stroke and heart attack, provided by the American Heart Association:
Act F.A.S.T. during stroke
Face drooping — Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
Arm weakness — Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
Speech difficulty — Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “the sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
Time to call 911 — If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 911 and get them to the hospital immediately.
Heart attack symptoms
Chest discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes — it may go away and then return. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.
Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Symptoms can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw or stomach.
Shortness of breath. This can occur with or without chest discomfort.
Other possible signs include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea or lightheadedness.
Women’s most common heart attack symptom is chest pain. Some women are more likely to experience shortness of breath, nausea/vomiting and back or jaw pain.
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