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"It's deadly serious": EMS crews see alarming trend amid COVID-19 crisis

Susquehanna Valley EMS says it believes some patients are not calling 911 when they need to because of their fear of going to the hospital

Susquehanna Valley EMS has a message for anyone who thinks they are experiencing a medical emergency: call 911 and go to the hospital.

"I've taken care of several patients who have said I've had chest pain for a week and I called my doctor and my doctor told me to go to the hospital and I just didn't want to go just because I was scared," said Rob Walker, a paramedic and a director of education and quality improvement for Susquehanna Valley EMS.

Walker said Susquehanna Valley EMS has seen a 62% percent increase during the pandemic (February-May) in cardiac arrest calls that involve patients who have died compared to last year.

"I think what's happening is people are scared to go to the hospital," said Walker, who added, "the fact that they're scared to go to the hospital is scaring them to death."

Pennsylvania's Department of Health spokesperson, Nate Wardle said "it is essential that people who have a health emergency seek medical attention. I cannot stress that enough. Hospitals, EMS providers, etc. are well prepared to not only handle COVID-19 patients, but also other emergencies, and to keep people safe."

Wardle adds hospitals have protocols in place to prevent exposure to COVID-19 to patients in their facilities.

"With that said, we have heard of issues in numerous parts of the state regarding people not seeking medical treatment out of fear of contracting COVID-19 at a hospital, and that is not what we want," said a Wardle. "Hospitals have capacity and are well equipped to help with all medical needs, particularly now as cases and hospitalizations decrease."

"Hospitals do a really good job," Walker said. "Especially hospitals here in Lancaster County in keeping things clean."

He adds, stalling to call 911 and seek medical attention can result in increased risk.

"This is not something that you can wait a week or 10 days and hope that it goes away, because a blocked vessel in your heart doesn't go away. It kills you," said Walker. 

Posted by Jamie Bittner on Wednesday, June 3, 2020