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Are COVID-19 Fears Preventing Heart Attack Patients From Calling 911?

Apr 23, 2020

North Texas - With response volume down by 19% from January, and ambulance transports to the hospital down 30%, MedStar is concerned that fear of catching the coronavirus is preventing people from calling 911 when they need to. Their crews have reported that some patients are waiting too long to call, and, even when they do, many patients are reluctant to go to the hospital.

“The reality is they are experiencing probably chest pains, difficulty breathing, other issues and they are ignoring them or they are pushing them out of their minds out of fear of going to the hospital or of calling 911,” said Matt Zavadsky with MedStar.

Other patients don’t want to go, according to MedStar due to the restricted visitor policies enacted by many hospitals to help flatten the curve of the coronavirus.

Another alarming statistic may reveal a concerning trend. Crews are seeing an increase by 12% in March 2020 compared to March 2019 of people in cardiac arrest. And, so far in April 2020, MedStar crews responded to 38% more cardiac arrests than in April 2019.

Additionally, of people found having a heart attack, 54% more patients were pronounced dead on scene by MedStar crews in April 2020, than in April 2019.

One positive aspect of the pandemic, according to Zavadsky, is, “This is probably the safest time in the history of our community to call 911, to go to the hospital, because the ambulances have never been cleaner. The EMTS and paramedics have never used as much protective equipment.”

About 800,000 Americans die of cardiovascular disease each year, and 1.5 million heart attacks and strokes occur annually in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

To date, 545 Texans have died from the coronavirus.