WAUSAU — For people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, mental health or other acute illness or injury, a hospital emergency department is still the safest, most appropriate place to get care. If someone is experiencing a life-threatening emergency, difficulty breathing, or warning signs of a heart attack or stroke, they should not delay, but go directly to the emergency room or dial 911.

Even though hospitals are caring for patients with COVID-19, clinicians want to reassure the public that people who need emergency care should not delay treatment. An emergency is still an emergency.

“We are seeing a concerning drop in the number of people coming in for serious non-COVID-related issues,” said Dr. Gregory Brusko, chief clinical officer, Ascension Wisconsin, in a news release. “Staying home, ignoring the symptoms and suffering out of fear of COVID-19 is a risk people shouldn’t take with their health. Timely treatment is critically important for achieving the best outcomes and lessening the risk of complications. We are prepared and set up to safely treat patients who require emergency care. No patient should delay their care in an emergency.”

At Ascension Wisconsin hospitals separate intake and care areas, waiting room distancing, staff screening, ongoing use of personal protective equipment, as well as extensive safety and sanitization protocols, are in place to ensure patients are cared for in a protected environment. Ascension Wisconsin continuously monitors guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and adjusts safety practices and safeguards accordingly.

Medical providers also encourage people who have pre-existing conditions to continue their routine care to stay healthy. Call your primary care provider or specialist first to discuss whether an online visit is an option for your care.