EMS director makes sure people concerned with COVID-19 still call 911 for emergencies

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DELAWARE COUNTY, Ohio (WCMH) — First responders want to remind people to not let concerns over getting COVID-19 stop them from calling 911 for possibly serious medical emergencies. Jeff Fishel, Delaware County’s EMS Director, posted a reminder on Facebook on Wednesday. 

“There is data that suggest that people are delaying medical care via EMS or at an ER due to fears related to contracting or being around COVID-19,” he wrote. “Please DO NOT wait to seek medical treatment for signs and symptoms related to a heart attack, stroke, or a major emergency…nationally it is being reported that patients are waiting and delaying care and therefore making their conditions even worse.”  

In Delaware County, Fishel says the number of calls related to those types of emergencies has stayed consistent throughout. He wants to see that continue.  

“We don’t want you delaying care for these serious medical emergencies and making your condition worse,” he said. “The ambulances are clean, the hospitals are clean, we don’t want you delaying care for these serious medical emergencies and making your condition worse.”

According to Fishel, the reason for the numbers of calls going down in some other places is not known for sure but he says there’s a theory people aren’t calling 911 when they probably should because of COVID-19 concerns.  

“Heart attacks, strokes, shortness of breath, and other medical emergencies, major medical emergencies, they don’t know seasons, they don’t know COVID lock downs or no COVID lock downs,” he said. “There’s not a reason why that should really be dropping off significantly like it has been.”

Fishel also says it’s possible people are taking initial pandemic guidance about avoiding emergency rooms for minor health issues too far.  

“Unfortunately, I think some people are extending that advice to major medical complaints as well and I’m here to say don’t do that,” he said.  

In Columbus, the number of chest pain calls in the last two weeks of April were down compared to two weeks in February. According to data from the Columbus Division of Fire, there were 230 chest pain runs the week of February 9th and 260 the week of February 16th. Data shows there were 173 chest pain runs the week of April 19th and 148 the week of April 26th. Battalion Chief Steve Martin says they are not sure of an exact reason for the decrease. The number of runs for strokes and cardiac arrest were relatively consistent with cardiac arrest calls up for the week of April 26th. 

“We want to strongly emphasize that if you are having chest pains or discomfort, or difficulty breathing, that is not normal for you,” Chief Martin wrote in a statement. “Our people have been trained to limit unnecessary personal contact. Our vehicles are cleaned and disinfected after every patient. The hospitals have staff and beds for those who need assistance. There is no reason that anybody in central Ohio that needs emergency medical assistance should go without it.” 

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