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UCHealth urges public to not delay care for emergencies, sudden illness and life-threatening situations

April 28, 2020

Health care system tracking trends of dramatic decreases in ER visits, fewer calls to 911 and drop in patients seeking care for stroke, cardiac emergencies

Good afternoon,
Below please find a news release and two short video links to interviews with Dr. Ben Usatch, medical director of the UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital Emergency Department, and Stephanie DeJesus, director of nursing of the UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital Emergency Department.

Download Video – Dr. Ben Usatch Download Video – Stephanie DeJesus


Aurora, Colo. (April 28, 2020) – UCHealth is experiencing an alarming decrease in the number of patients it is seeing across its emergency departments, while patients seeking care are far more sick, raising concerns that people are either waiting too long to seek care for emergencies or not calling 911.

While compliance with stay-at-home orders likely has contributed to fewer emergencies such as trauma cases resulting from auto accidents, UCHealth is concerned that people are hesitating to come to emergency rooms for fear of COVID-19 or not wanting to contribute to overwhelming hospitals unnecessarily.

In fact, most of UCHealth’s emergency departments are seeing 40 percent fewer patients than this time last year. In addition, the patients who are coming to emergency departments are far more sick than normal.

Patients can be assured that UCHealth is cleaning to the highest medical grade standards and has in place proactive physical distancing measures, sneeze guards and enhanced, high-frequency cleaning and disinfecting across all spaces – including waiting rooms and high-touch areas.

“I know that some people may be concerned to come to a hospital right now, but because we are taking so many precautions including wearing PPE, constantly disinfecting patient care areas and isolating patients with suspected COVID-19 infections, the emergency departments are safer than most stores and public areas,​” said Dr. Richard Zane, chief innovation officer for UCHealth and chair of emergency medicine for the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “The likelihood of dying from delayed treatment of common conditions is far higher than dying from COVID related illness.”

Across UCHealth, physicians are finding:

  • The number of patients seeking care for acute stroke was 22 percent lower in March compared to 2019.
  • The number of patients being treated for stroke at UCHealthlocations is at its lowest level in about two years. ​
  • Emergency cardiac interventions are down 27 percent from prior months.
  • Every day, patients are waiting too long to seek care for emergency conditions.

“Seeking prompt care leads to better outcomes and faster recovery,” said Dr. Jean Kutner, chief medical officer for UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital. “Importantly, we’re taking every measure possible to ensure patient safety, and patients with COVID-19 infections are generally cared for in separate, dedicated units. They are isolated from our non-COVID-19 patients.”

Symptoms that may suggest an emergency medical condition include chest pain, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain or signs of stroke. Facial droop, weakness on one side of the body and slurred speech may signal a stroke.

“Our waiting rooms are empty, and we have more empty patient rooms than normal, so patients coming to our emergency departments are seen immediately,” said Zane. “Please, don’t hesitate to get the care you need.”

If someone is unsure whether they need emergency care, a Virtual Urgent Care visit is available 24 hours a day. The fee for the virtual visit is waived if the provider recommends a patient be seen in an emergency department.

About UCHealth

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. UCHealth includes 25,000 employees, 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth is dedicated to providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. Offering more than 150 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

Contact: Paula Freund
[email protected]