NI Chest Heart & Stroke and leading doctors are urging people not to delay seeking treatment for heart attack or stroke, amid a major drop in patients asking for help during the coronavirus crisis.
Cardiologists and stroke physicians say delay can be extremely dangerous. An average of 17 people have a heart attack and 11 suffer a stroke in Northern Ireland every day and it is imperative that anyone with symptoms seeks immediate medical advice.
Brian Gallen, a Stroke Consultant at the South West Acute Hospital in Enniskillen who is on the governing board of NICHS, said: “We have seen a marked drop in people seeking treatment for symptoms related to stroke, and I know from talking to colleagues that this is happening everywhere.
“But speed is of the essence in ensuring the most effective interventions and optimising the chances of a full recovery. Your risk of harm from stroke or other cardiovascular conditions is much higher than the risk of being infected with COVID-19 in hospital.”
Dr Paul McGlinchey, Consultant Cardiologist with the Western Health and Social Care Trust, said: “We have noticed that the number of patients coming to hospital with common cardiac conditions such as heart attacks has fallen away dramatically and this is a pattern that has been seen in all regions affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
“We know the public are listening to the public health messages to stay at home and away from hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we don’t think that there are any fewer patients suffering from these common cardiac conditions.”
Declan Cunnane, Chief Executive of NI Chest Heart & Stroke, said: “If you think someone is having a heart attack or stroke, you should continue to treat it as a medical emergency and call 999.
“Every day across Northern Ireland, 17 people have a heart attack and 11 have a stroke. That cannot simply have stopped suddenly. We have seen the devastation that heart attack and stroke can cause in the community, which is why we’re urging people not to ignore the warning signs. It can mean the difference between recovery and death or long-term disability.
“We have made around 6,000 support calls since this crisis began to people who have been diagnosed with a chest, heart or stroke illness, and we’re always here for anyone who needs support or advice.”