Your emergency services in the lockdown

There are reports that less people are turning up to hospital with suspected heart attacks. The usual advice stands: if you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack call 111 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

Emergency departments from throughout the world are reporting a decrease in the number of people presenting at hospital with heart attacks or strokes.

The New York Times is reporting an informal poll showed a 40 to 60 per cent reduction in admissions for heart attacks across the United States. Meanwhile cardiologists in Spain have reported a 40 per cent reduction in admissions.

Just why this is happening is not yet clear, but physicians worldwide are attempting to deliver the message to people who are experiencing chest pain or symptoms, that they should not hesitate to call for help.

And cardiologists in New Zealand are joining this call, with reports patient numbers in some emergency departments in Auckland and Northland have fallen by up to 50 percent in recent weeks, leaving district health boards worried people are delaying seeking treatment. 

"Overseas and in New Zealand we are seeing anecdotal evidence that less people are presenting at hospital with suspected heart attacks, and we don’t want this to happen.

The advice stands, if you are experiencing symptoms of a heart attack call 111 immediately and ask for ambulance.

The sooner we can treat a heart attack the better chance a person has of survival," says Heart Foundation Medical Director, Dr Gerry Devlin.

"One possible explanation is people are staying at home rather than risking coming to the hospital and getting infected with coronavirus. But if people stay at home instead of calling for help, it could be too late."

To help people with heart conditions in this time of uncertainty, the Heart Foundation has introduced a new confidential telephone help line. Nurses staffing the help line have up-to-date information on the Covid-19 pandemic and can offer advice and support about your heart health.

Linda Moloney, a Heart Foundation nurse liaison, says a high percentage of the calls to the help line so far have come from people experiencing chest pain and symptoms. 

"Some people are unsure what to do. If people are having ongoing chest pain we are recommending people call 111 and seek medical help immediately," says Linda.

"A lot of people are experiencing stress and anxiety at this time and people need advice on whether to call an ambulance or get follow-up treatment with a doctor," she says.

The Heart Foundation is also increasing the number of its TV advertisement placements to increase awareness of heart attack symptoms during this time.

"Just because we’re in a pandemic doesn’t mean people stop heaving heart attacks. We need to increase awareness of the symptoms so people are seeking the medical treatment they need during this time," says Gerry.

If you are in need of advice, the Heart Foundation help line is available on 0800 863 375 or (09) 571 9191 between the hours of 9.00am-5.00pm, Monday to Friday.

Heart attack symptoms