Is fear of the coronavirus driving people away from the hospital?

TUPELO, Miss. (WTVA) – Many doctors are seeing a trend that has them concerned: people are putting off a visit to the emergency room.

The reason? Cardiologist Dr. Barry Bertolet said it is fear. People are scared of possible exposure to the coronavirus.

He said North Mississippi Health Services (NMHS) emergency room doctors are seeing a decrease in patients with stroke or heart attack symptoms.

Bertolet works at Cardiology Associates of North Mississippi and sees patients at the North Mississippi Medical Center (NMMC) in Tupelo.

He said they are seeing heart attack and stroke patients foregoing the hospital because they are scared of possible exposure to coronavirus.

However, when it comes to these types of medical emergencies, timing is everything.

“What we’re concerned about is heart attack patients either dying or having heart failure symptoms as a result of it and the stroke patients not getting that early therapy,” he said about not going to the hospital.

At NMHS, Bertolet said there is a 20 percent decrease in patients coming in with heart attack symptoms and a 40 percent drop in patients with stroke symptoms during this time period, compared to last year.

Bertolet wants to remind everyone medical professionals are taking precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.

“Come to the emergency room,” he said. “They are safe. They are putting the coronavirus-suspected patients in different areas.”

Anyone who has chest pain, facial drooping or shortness of breath, those are all signs you need to go to the hospital, Bertolet said