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Doctors urge people to continue routine, emergency visits during COVID-19 pandemic

Medical experts say the fear of catching coronavirus in the hospital or a doctor's office is leading to worse outcomes for patients.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — With COVID-19 cases still on the rise in the Carolinas, it seems some people are hesitant to go into the hospital or a doctor's office for appointments, afraid they could catch coronavirus. 

Even though those fears are real, doctors issued an urgent warning that it's still necessary and important to go, or some patients could end up with a worse outcome than COVID-19.

For some people, it could lead to a condition more serious than coronavirus. An emergency department doctor at Novant Health said people are ending up in worse shape because they’re too nervous to walk into the ER or doctor’s office.

“It’s not just what’s in front of you but what’s not. I think a lot of us have concerns for the people who are not coming to the hospital. And we do see them because eventually they come with complications," said Dr. David Rentz, the director of emergency medicine at Novant.

He says what doctors and nurses in the ER have been hearing from patients has become a broken record.

“I normally would've come in a week or two ago but I was afraid to come in because of coronavirus," Dr. Rentz said.

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That fear can lead to bigger problems with worse outcomes.

“We had a 48-year-old who used to mow his lawn and go to the gym every single day. He started having symptoms in early April and presented two weeks ago and probably needs a heart transplant because he waited too long and damaged his heart too much,” said Rentz.

He says people with chronic health problems need to stay on top of regular treatments or appointments. People experiencing emergencies shouldn’t hesitate either.

“The risk of not taking care of those, more often than not is much higher than the risk of coronavirus,” said Dr. Rentz.

Hospitals and physicians’ offices are extremely safe right now because they have implemented so many new cleaning and safety protocols.

It is still important to social distance, wear a mask and wash your hands after leaving an appointment.