Jun 16, 2021 - News

NWA hospital ER admissions up after a year of delayed health care

Illustration of an EMS symbol with one of the crossbars forming an upward arrow.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Northwest Arkansas hospitals are seeing an increase in the percentage of non-coronavirus emergency room patients with serious health problems, compared to pre-pandemic times, hospital officials tell Axios.

What's happening: People are being admitted to the hospital and/or intensive care unit through the emergency room, largely because they put off seeking health care during the pandemic, Danita Mullins, emergency department director at Washington Regional Medical Center, tells Axios.

  • People were scared to go to the doctor or hospitals in the past year, Mullins says.
  • The increase is also because people who have had COVID-19 are experiencing long-term health problems, and because of more substance abuse-related emergency room visits, Mullins says.

Why it matters: A larger portion of patients are being admitted for problems like cardiac or respiratory arrest, severe low or high blood pressure and chest pain.

By the numbers: The percentage of hospital admissions through Washington Regional's ER that are "high acuity" has been averaging about 80% in 2021, compared to about 76% in 2019.

The trend has been consistent since a few months into the pandemic, Mullins said.

  • Martine Pollard, spokesperson at Mercy Health System, tells Axios other hospitals in the region are seeing a similar pattern.

The bottom line: Health care professionals stress that you should not avoid regular check-ups or seeing a doctor if you have any health concerns. And definitely don't ignore something like chest pains.

  • Health care facilities have protocols to prevent COVID-19 infection and vaccines are available.

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