People staying away from health care during COVID-19 could be the difference between life and death

Montana hospitals have seen fewer patients seeking emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic. These decisions to delay medical care could be a matter of life and death.

We encourage patients to not skip needed treatment because of COVID-19 fear and anxiety. Waiting too long to seek medical care for serious and potentially life-threatening conditions — like heart attack or stroke — could significantly impact the outcomes for patients.

Many patients are now seeking care at focused respiratory illness screening centers. Treating patients in these screening centers rather than at the hospital or clinic is necessary to conserve personal protective equipment (PPE) and to minimize potential exposure to our staff and patients. However, we want to assure patients that emergency department is open and safe.

Additionally, primary and specialty care providers are continuing to provide care beyond treating patients with COVID-19 like symptoms. Many practices are continuing to see patients in the clinic when appropriate. We have implemented additional precautions in all our facilities to identify and treat patients suspected of having COVID-19. Furthermore, many practices are now providing telehealth visits — eliminating all risk of exposure. Please call your provider to see if telehealth is an option for you. We have also resumed elective and non-urgent procedures this week in the hospital and endoscopy procedures including screening colonoscopies are resuming on May 11. If you have questions, would like to schedule an appointment or get a physician referral, call (406) 327-4770. If you would like to schedule a colonoscopy, call (406) 327-4524.

People continue to have accidents, heart attacks, strokes and appendicitis, and the emergency room remains the best source of care. People in need of emergency care should not avoid or delay care.

Patients who feel ill should call their primary care provider or visit a walk-in clinic. Patients who are experiencing a life-threatening illness or condition should call 9-1-1 or go immediately to the nearest emergency room.