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Doctors express concern as numbers show heart patients avoid hospitals during pandemic

January 26, 2021


Dr. Harindra Wijeysundera, cardiologist and chief of the Schulich Heart Program is featured on CBC raising awareness of the importance of heart patients seeking care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Early in the pandemic, there was a dramatic decline in patients arriving in hospitals or undergoing heart-saving operations, explains the story, leaving many heart doctors and health-care teams concerned people are not seeking care when they should.

Dr. Wijeysundera chairs a national effort, known as the Canadian Cardiovascular Society COVID-19 Challenge for Canada Initiative (CCS-C3I), to provide a pan-Canadian understanding of the cardiovascular impact that COVID-19 has on cardiovascular care during and after the first wave. The group created a website to track cardiac hospitalizations and procedures. Data from his group has shown that delays in receiving care has resulted in poorer outcomes, including death.

The article notes that ‘waiting lists for procedures to fix heart problems are not growing, which suggests patients are not seeing doctors and having diagnostic tests.’ This is a major concern.

“There's this hidden population," Dr. Wijeysundera explains to the CBC. “(It's) like the analogy of an iceberg. There's a lot of people under the surface who still haven't even got on the wait list.”

Anecdotal evidence suggests people may be avoiding hospital due to fear of contracting COVID-19, adding burden to an already stretched health-care system, or simply because forced visiting restrictions prevent family members from accompanying them for surgery, says Dr. Wijeysundera.

With Canada being in the midst of the second wave of COVID-19, it has become increasingly important to reflect on the implications of the first wave, avoid shutting down care, and encourage those who need it to seek help.

If you experience shortness of breath, dizziness, or chest pain, call 911 and go to your nearest Emergency Department.

Read the full article

Read more: Heart patients urge others to seek care