Australians are being warned not to play down or ignore medical emergencies or existing conditions during the current coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The Australian Chronic Disease Prevention Alliance (ACDPA) is concerned some people are overlooking their existing chronic conditions and even failing to call triple zero (000) for an ambulance in an immediate life-threatening emergency. This delay could put them or their loved ones at risk of disastrous consequences, lengthier hospital stays and even death.
ACDPA Chair Sharon McGowan said it was vital people sought urgent medical help when it was needed.
"If you, or someone with you, requires urgent medical help, do not hesitate to call triple zero (000)," Ms McGowan said.
"I understand some Australians may be concerned about being a burden on our doctors and nurses at this busy time or be worried about contracting coronavirus in hospitals.
"But essential services are still running in our hospitals and every precaution is being taken to protect patients and their families throughout the entire health system."
Many patients with chronic conditions, like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and cancer need ongoing treatment and care to manage their health. Other conditions like heart attack and stroke require immediate medical attention.
It is essential for Australians to know that they can keep accessing regular and emergency care during this time.
Ms McGowan added the health system is still available for medical emergencies, life-sustaining treatments like dialysis and transplant care, as well as ongoing care for those with existing medical conditions.
"I am hearing heart-breaking stories of people who are risking their lives unnecessarily by not calling an ambulance in a medical emergency," Ms McGowan said.
"This includes two patients with stroke who stayed at home where their conditions worsened, instead of presenting to hospital. Stroke is a time-critical medical emergency and as each minute passed, their brain cells died.
"This is incredibly distressing because these patients could have received time-critical treatment but are enduring much more serious disabilities as a result of the delay".
Hospitals are taking a raft of precautions to maximise safety in COVID and non-COVID areas. They are also minimising the length of stay for patients, with Telehealth consultations (phone or video appointments) available for follow-up care. They are also planning for worst case scenarios that will help ensure essential emergency and urgent services remain available.
Ms McGowan reiterated people must always call triple zero immediately in a medical emergency, no matter where you live or what age you may be.
"Don't wait until it's too late," she said.
Reasons to call triple zero (000) for an ambulance include:
- Chest pain or chest tightness.
- Sudden onset of weakness, numbness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg.
- Breathing difficulties.
- Uncontrollable bleeding.
- A sudden collapse or unexplained fall.
- Unexplained fitting in adults.
- Injury from a major car accident.
- A fall from a great height.
- Serious assault, including stabbing or shooting.
- Severe burns, particularly in young children.
- Infants who are fitting or have an ongoing fever.