Don’t delay treatment for heart conditions because of COVID fears

Edwin Tulloch-Reid

Hospitals around the globe are reporting an overwhelming number of patient admissions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Surprisingly, clinicians are reportedly seeing fewer patients with symptoms of heart attack or stroke in emergency departments. Several reports from many countries indicate that patients are delaying seeking treatment for non-COVID related symptoms because they are afraid of being exposed to COVID-19 patients. 

Experts worry that among the many persons delaying critical care are those with symptoms of heart attack or stroke. There are also increasing anecdotal reports of patients dying at home, presumably from major heart attacks. In recent weeks in Jamaica, several high-profile deaths at home have been reported, presumably from major heart attacks. Cardiovascular diseases remain the number one cause of death and disability in Jamaica.

“It is likely that the incidence of heart attacks and strokes will rise in the middle of the pandemic due to the increased stress imposed on individuals who are already at risk, compounded by delays in seeking appropriate care,” said Director of Clinical Services at the HIC Heart Hospital Dr Edwin Tulloch-Reid.

He added: “Despite the current pandemic, we encourage patients to pay close attention to heart attack symptoms, particularly if they have a pre-existing heart condition, and to seek immediate attention if they believe they may be having a heart attack. Heart attack symptoms may present as chest pain, often associated with profound sweating, nausea or vomiting, difficulty breathing, discomfort in the chest, arms, back, neck and jaw or heaviness in the hands. If unaddressed, heart attack could quickly result in death or major complications for those who survive. Getting care quickly is critical and may save your life and limit damage to your heart and your health.

He said the HIC Heart Hospital is open 24/7 and that the labs are open for immediate intervention and treatment of patients having heart attack, irrespective of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tulloch-Reid added: “At the Heart Institute of the Caribbean (HIC), we are, however, mindful of the legitimate concerns of heart patients that prevent them from seeking timely treatment in the middle of the pandemic and have taken steps to protect our patients with heart disease. We have reinforced both the frequency and intensity of our deep cleaning processes to ensure that our HIC Hospital is adequately sanitized to limit the risk of infectious microbes and viruses.

“We have also increased our resource allocation to our specialized cardiac A & E to ensure that there is no crowding of patients and that patients are seen within 15 minutes of registration. Furthermore, we have made our Virtual Cardiology Consultation service open and free to all heart patients in Jamaica during this pandemic to ensure that patients with heart disease have ready access to Cardiologists without leaving their homes for non-emergent cardiac complaints.

“Our Virtual Cardiology Consultation service will be available from 9 am to 5 pm, Mondays to Fridays and will require prior appointment. In addition, we have instituted free webinar series on COVID-19 and the Heart that will give patients access to experts to address their concerns regarding COVID-19 and Heart. To schedule a virtual cardiology consultation or to participate in our virtual webinar series, citizens are advised to call HIC at 876-906-2105 or 876-907-2107 to register. We encourage patients to continue routine heart care to ensure they stay healthy.”