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Utahns Delaying Medical Care, Check-Ups Because Of COVID-19 Fears

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Utahns and patients across the country are delaying emergency medical care and regular check-ups because they are afraid of contracting COVID-19 while they are at a hospital or medical clinic, Gov. Gary Herbert said.

Herbert said he became aware of the problem during a recent visit to a Utah intensive care unit.

“We’re finding out that people are, in fact, delaying getting health care that they need to have whether it’s a lack of surgery or a trip to the hospital because they’re afraid to go there because that’s where COVID-19 patients are housed and somehow they feel like that’s maybe not a safe environment,” he said.

Herbert teamed with Intermountain Healthcare’s Dr. Mark Briesacher to discuss the problem at Thursday’s COVID-19 briefing and reassure Utahns that hospitals and clinics are safe.

“We’ve seen a decrease in the number of people who present to our hospitals with emergency and life-threatening conditions and this actually is true across the country,” Briesacher said. “A national study found that there has been a 40% reduction in the number of patients presenting to have stroke symptoms assessed and treated. There has been a 35% reduction in the number of patients presenting with symptoms of heart attack.”

Briesacher said Utah hospitals and clinics are safe and ready for any health care need.

“In these conditions, every minute counts,” he said. “So please, our hospitals are safe. We’re ready to care for you. Don’t delay care for these life-threatening conditions.”

He gave credit to the Utah Hospital Association and a collaboration with other hospitals across the state to create and execute a plan for identifying and separating coronavirus patients from other people in health care facilities.

“We have in place processes that are designed to keep you and your family safe and designed to keep our caregivers safe,” Briesacher said. “So when you present to our clinics or you present to our emergency department, we screen you and if there is the potential that you have COVID-19 you’re moved into a specific area. If you’re presenting for other things, like you’re having heart symptoms or stroke symptoms or other emergencies, then you’re moved to a different area and cared for in that area.”

He said healthcare workers across the state are taking every precaution including face masks, face shields, gowns and devices that purify the air to ensure everyone is protected from the virus. As medical services increase across the state Dr. Briesacher said facilities are adding extra cleaning and extra testing before medical procedures to make sure patients do not have COVID-19.

He said restrictions for people accompanying patients to health care facilities and visitors will continue.

“It’s really important that you don’t delay care. It’s important for your health, it’s important for our community’s health, and delays in care can actually be life-threatening,” Briesacher said. “If you’re due for a skin cancer screening, breast cancer screening, colon cancer screening, please go and get that done.”

Briesacher also encouraged diabetics, people with heart diseases and other chronic medical conditions to check in with their providers to make sure treatment plans and medications are working correctly.

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