Hospitals facing new problem as pandemic fears continue — empty beds

Hospitals slow to recover from pandemic

CINCINNATI (FOX19) - At the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, health officials thought we’d see a massive spike in cases that would threaten to overrun hospitals in the Tri-State and around Ohio.

So far, that hasn’t happened.

But the precautions were taken nonetheless, and regardless whether they were worthwhile, some hospitals wards now find their beds empty as a result.

Even after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine permitted hospitals to perform elective surgeries last week, doctors say some patients are still not going in for treatment.

They say it’s a combination of fear — and not understanding that hospitals are open for business.

Tri-State resident Jeff Chandler is an illustrative case. He says he started having chest pains weeks ago, but hesitated before going into the hospital.

“I couldn’t decide what it was. It felt a lot like indigestion, but it was very bad," he said. "It would last a couple of hours and go away.”

When Chandler finally went to the hospital, doctors diagnosed him immediately with a prolonged heart attack.

“When he came here, we went straight to the cath lab,” said Timothy Henry, MD, cardiologist at The Christ Hospital.

Chandler says doctors put two stints in, and he was able to leave the hospital the following day.

“It could have been a very large heart attack,” Henry explains. “It could have been a very small one. But he is okay because he got here in time.”

Many don’t. Doctors around the country say fewer heart attacks are being reported during the pandemic because fewer heart attack patients are going to the ER.

“Patients are dying at home," Henry said.

"What we know is people are scared to come to the hospital. (But) the consequences of cutting off elective procedures or semi-elective health procedure have had consquences to people.

“We have to get the message out that hospitals are safe.”

Henry says shutting down parts of the healthcare system on the front end of the pandemic was much easier than starting it back up.

“I think stopping electives at hospitals, we did it because we did not want hospitals to be overwhelmed, but now most hospitals are empty," he said.

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