DAUPHIN COUNTY, Pa. — Penn State Hershey Medical Center said it's seen a 30% decrease in emergency patients for things like heart attack and stroke, largely because people are worried about contracting COVID-19.
"People are actually staying home when they have minor symptoms and not coming in," Dr. Kevin Cockroft, Co-Director of the Penn State Stroke Center, said. "They're sort of ignoring them. And then when they do come in what we're seeing is people tend to be sicker than they were before."
There are multiple reasons this could be happening. The big reason, according to Dr. Cockroft, is people are scared of contracting COVID-19, and he said many of them are putting themselves at risk for more damage by not going to get checked or treated.
"It's actually quite safe to come to the hospital," Dr. Cockroft said. "It's probably safer to come to the hospital than it is to go to your local grocery store."
Like almost all hospitals, everyone that comes to Penn State Hershey Medical Center is screened. That includes patients and employees. Everyone gets their temperature taken, is asked a number of questions, and wears a mask.
"People will say, 'we're nervous about coming in. Can we do this by telephone? Do I really need to come in'?" Dr. Cockroft said. "Some things we can handle by telephone or telehealth, but other things are more significant and more severe and patients do really need to come to the hospital."
The hospital also wants to remind people that visitors are not allowed so there are fewer people there. COVID-19 patients are in separate wards so your chances of crossing paths with one of them are low.
In a statement, the Department of Health said it has heard of this issue in parts of the state, and it's "not what we want. Hospitals have capacity and are well equipped to help with all medical needs."
"We're never going to say don't come to the hospital if you have coronavirus," Dr. Cockroft said. "It doesn't matter whether you have COVID19 or not, we still want you to come to the hospital and we're still prepared to take care of you."
If you have an emergency and have COVID-19 or think you could have COVID-19, Penn State Hershey Medical Center just asks you call ahead and let them know, so that extra precautions can be taken.