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Forsyth Medical's emergency room visits are down, but that's not necessarily a good thing

While it's a good thing the ER isn't crowded with unnecessary visitors, healthcare workers say people with serious emergencies aren't coming in either.

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. — Coronavirus cases are going up as visits to the emergency room are going down - but don't let that statistic fool you.

While it's a good thing people aren't crowding emergency rooms for unnecessary reasons, people who actually need help are delaying trips to the ER. Healthcare workers say that's a decision that could cause irreversible damage. 

On an average day, inside the Forsyth Medical Center, emergency department staff normally see between 250 and 260 patients. 

But now, Heather Norman - nurse and manager of the department says - they're only seeing between 130 and 140.

"Almost immediately after the stay at home order was issued, we saw a decrease in the number of visits to the emergency department," she said, "What we found is that people are associating hospitals with COVID and the coronavirus. Which is obviously a scary thing right?"

She says people are delaying care even after suffering a stroke or a heart attack, or breaking a bone. If they do come to the ER eventually - patients are much sicker.

"If you stay at home and you don't come to the emergency department for treatment and you wait for days - that's causing permanent damage to your heart or to your brain," she said.

"A broken bone might be a simple broken bone at the time that it happened  - but if you don’t seek treatment immediately, it can cause permanent neurovascular damage, which might mean that you are not able to walk properly on it in the future."

Norman says people experiencing coronavirus symptoms are taken to a different part of the emergency department entirely. Doctors, nurses, and other medical staff are especially careful during this crisis. 

"What we want to make sure people understand is that the emergency department in the hospital are the experts at caring for people, both with the coronavirus but also for caring for people without that," she said. 

Her advice: if it's truly an emergency - don't put it off.

Both Wake Forest Baptist Health and Cone Health representatives report a decrease in ER patients.

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