Delayed primary chronic disease care may be fueling current ER demand

By Dennis Archambault

Recent reports about excessive demand on local hospital emergency facilities may seem, at first glance, to suggest that the COVID pandemic surge has returned to the state. And it may have. But what also seems to be occurring is a return to normal, pre-COVID use of emergency hospitalization, which should remind everyone of the importance of managing chronic disease and prevention.

The demand for emergency services has increased, in part, by the pandemic, hospital representatives say. But what’s different now than in the spring of 2020 when the pandemic hit Michigan is that people are no longer avoiding emergency services. Dr. David Donaldson, Beaumont Hospital Troy’s head of emergency services noted that “What we’re currently seeing is different than the start of this pandemic. At the start of the pandemic, volumes across the country in emergency centers went down. And I think it went down for various reasons… But at this point, we’re not only seeing our now-normal volumes, meaning pre-pandemic patient volumes, but we’re seeing that on top of COVID” as well as the staffing crisis. Beaumont’s CEO John Fox underscored that: “Many people delayed getting tests and treatment for medical issues because of their concerns about the pandemic. Now, more than a year and a half after the pandemic began, those delays in care are resulting in medical emergencies.”

It’s what primary care physicians feared. The reluctance among many to avoid visiting physician offices during the peak of the first waves reduced maintenance of chronic diseases and create risks that may be resulting in emergencies a year later.

Dennis Archambault is vice president of Public Affairs for Authority Health.