February 23, 2021
Alberta Health Services (AHS) is urging Albertans to seek medical attention if they need care.
AHS has seen a decline this winter in hospital admissions for stroke and heart attack. This is similar to a trend seen in March and April of 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This reminder follows AHS’ recent launch of a campaign encouraging Albertans to ‘listen to their bodies’, and if something feels off, to book an appointment to see their family doctor.
While that campaign is targeting symptoms that may be linked to a cancer diagnosis, delaying treatment for heart attack, stroke and other conditions can also have serious consequences. When patients eventually do come to hospital, they are often very sick. These are time-dependent conditions where effective, life-saving treatments are routinely used, but they need to be applied shortly after symptom onset.
“Without treatment, you may end up dead – or seriously disabled,” said cardiologist Dr. Michelle Graham. “You may survive that heart attack while staying at home, but will be at much higher risk of developing heart failure, which has a worse prognosis than many cancers.”
Evidence shows that early treatment for heart attacks can limit or even prevent heart damage; and for strokes, a delay in treatment of as little as 25 minutes can leave an additional 20 per cent of stroke patients with severe disability or even death.
The COVID-19 pandemic has meant that some Albertans have not sought treatment out of concern over the virus. Measures taken to ensure the safety of patients may also be viewed by some as an additional barrier to receiving care.
However, throughout the pandemic, Alberta’s health system has been open to patients to diagnose and manage illness and disease.
As well, all AHS facilities enforce rigorous infection prevention and control standards, screen staff for COVID-19 symptoms and exposure risk, and have staff follow continuous masking and diligent hand hygiene policies. AHS facilities are safe places to seek care.
Family doctors are available and able to assist you with health concerns. Primary care offices screen patients for COVID-19 and take precautions to ensure they too can provide safe treatment for their patients.
Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.