North Texas residents are still calling 911 infrequently and visiting the doctor less, and it is resulting in a higher rate of patients who are pronounced dead when EMS crews arrive after an emergency call, according to data from North Texas emergency response service MedStar.
Compared to April 2019, the number of patients who were in cardiac arrest was up 113 percent in April this year. Of those patients, the number who were pronounced dead on the scene by MedStar crews rose 164 percent relative to last April. This data is similar to results from March, which reflected similar if less drastic changes in behavior around calling 911 and cardiac arrest.
The increases in cardiac arrest and deaths was even more striking considering total volume is down 19 percent compared to January, and total ambulance transports to the hospital are down 28 percent in that same time period.
That means fewer people are calling 911, but those who do call are more likely to have a serious condition relative to past years.
The trends are the same across the country. In a survey of 860 EMS agencies by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, 69 percent of respondents said that the number of EMS responses have decreased at an average of 34 percent. Hospitals too, are reporting a reduction of cardiac patients and stoke victims. At MedStar, calls for heart attacks were down 42 percent and strokes responses were down 36 percent. It is unlikely that there are fewer cardiac or stroke emergencies, and more likely that residents are avoiding calling out of fear of going to the hospital and contracting COVID-19.
“We are quite concerned that locally and nationwide people are afraid, in some cases, to call 911. We are experiencing adverse patient outcomes by the patient not calling 911 or delaying the call,”says Stephen Love, president of the Dallas-Fort Worth Hospital Council. “Hospitals and the emergency departments focus constantly on infection control. Rest assured, it is safe to seek emergency medical care with no fear of contracting COVID-19. Make the call as we are here to serve you with safe medical diagnoses and treatment.”