Lakeland patients dying at home, too afraid to visit emergency room

Posted at 3:21 PM, Apr 20, 2020

LAKELAND, Fla. -- People in the Lakeland area are choosing to risk their life instead of seeking medical attention at their local emergency room.

Lakeland Regional Health tells ABC Action News they’ve had multiple cases come in too late, afraid they may contract COVID-19.

“People are unnecessarily dying at home when they would be perfectly safe coming here,” Dr. Timothy Regan, the Chief Medical Officer at Lakeland Regional Health said Monday.

From heart attacks, emergency surgeries and even broken bones, Dr. Regan says patients are putting off a visit during life-threatening events.

“It’s either too late or they will have life-long medical issues because of it,” he said.

Dr. Regan says Lakeland Regional Health is more than capable of handling the pandemic and typical emergencies.

The hospital has 864 beds, and 133 emergency beds. Dr. Regan says they’ve split the hospital in two, meaning COVID patients should never come in contact with those seeking different medical treatments.

“Really it’s the safest place to be in the community right now because of our ability to separate patient populations all together,” Dr. Regan said.

From start to finish, the process is much different, with each patient being screened at the door and sent in opposite directions.

“People may think that the only medical condition going on right now is COVID-19, but the reality is that there are serious medical emergencies that need to be addressed in a timely fashion,” Dr. Regan stresses to patients that they overcome the fear and seek attention as quickly as possible if necessary.

But that fear has spurred Lakeland Regional health into action.

A brand new call-ahead service has been implemented for those seeking E.R. services. Patients can call ahead to let nurses and staff know they are on their way.

The screening process can be seen as an added layer of protection if they are seeking treatment for COVID-19 or for another emergency.

As of April 20, Lakeland Regional has tested 1,712 people for COVID-19, with 54 positive results.