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Emergency Department visits up nearly 40 percent in Michigan

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Emergency room physicians are seeing a drop in admissions for heart attacks and strokes. They worry patients who have delayed care may be sicker when they finally arrive in emergency rooms.

Emergency Department visits are up nearly 40-percent in Michigan from last September.

Some hospitals say a lot of those patients coming in are "high acuity," meaning more seriously ill, than before the pandemic, and it's not just COVID patients.

Dr. Brad Uren, a professor of emergency medicine at the University of Michigan, believes that part of it may be due to people delaying care during the pandemic.

"We're still seeing people that may have deferred an early warning of a cancer, for example, over the last several months," Uren said. "And so when they're coming in now, they're coming in with more advanced cases. We also have people coming in with chest pain, patients that that have been having those symptoms for a few weeks. In the course of the workup, we may find that they've had a heart problem or even that they've had a blood clot in their lung."

In a national survey this summer, more than 70% of emergency physicians said they were having to keep patients longer in the ER, because the inpatient units are just too full.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist and co-host of the Michigan Radio and NPR podcast Believed. The series was widely ranked among the best of the year, drawing millions of downloads and numerous awards. She and co-host Lindsey Smith received the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists. Judges described their work as "a haunting and multifaceted account of U.S.A. Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar’s belated arrest and an intimate look at how an army of women – a detective, a prosecutor and survivors – brought down the serial sex offender."