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For people experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, mental health, or other acute illness or injury, a hospital emergency room 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 individuals who need emergency care should not delay treatment. An emergency is still an emergency. Ascension Wisconsin hospitals and emergency rooms are well prepared to safely care for people with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, and other serious conditions.

“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. “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.”

Ascension Wisconsin hospitals are equipped to safely protect patients from potential exposure to COVID-19 while taking care of their chest pain, stroke symptoms, traumatic injuries, emotional and mental health, and any other acute medical or emergent surgical needs. 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 all patients are cared for in a protected environment. Ascension Wisconsin continuously monitors guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and adjusts safety practices and safeguards accordingly.

“It’s critical to go to the ER if you are experiencing symptoms like pressure, tightness, pain, or a squeezing or aching sensation in your chest or arms that may spread to your neck, jaw or back; shortness of breath; or nausea or lightheadedness, as these all may be signs of a heart attack,” said Dr. Beth Griffin, Emergency Medical Director, Ascension All Saints Hospital. “The types of symptoms that required emergency care in the past still require emergency care now. Our hospitals and catheterization labs are still treating patients suffering from heart attack and stroke, and we are taking the utmost precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”

Ascension providers also encourage individuals 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. If you can’t talk to your regular doctor, or if you need care more quickly, you can talk to a doctor 24/7 through Ascension Online Care. Ascension Online Care offers video visits for urgent care using your smartphone, tablet, or laptop. No insurance is required. Visit to learn more.

If clinicians identify changes in a person’s health, they can help them better manage it or decide where and how a person might need to be seen and treated. However, 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.