Baptist Health Physicians Urge Patients to Continue to Seek Care During Pandemic

FORT SMITH, Ark. – The COVID-19 pandemic has made people hesitant to go anywhere in public – and that has included seeking health care for conditions that need attention.

But physicians at Baptist Health say concern about COVID-19 should not cause anyone to be too afraid to seek care during a medical emergency.

“No one should delay care for heart attacks, strokes, and other illnesses because they are too afraid of COVID-19 to go to the emergency room or hospital,” said Dr. Keith Reitzel, Chief Medical Officer for Baptist Health facilities in western Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. “Our infection control and prevention practices have remained a top priority as we care for patients with any contagious disease or virus, including COVID-19.”

Under the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Baptist Health has taken many steps to address this concern, including process redesign, procurement and establishment of standards for use of personal protective equipment, separation of COVID-19 patients and the addition of resources.

“Our job is to help our community lead healthier lives, and we have never been more focused on caring for you,” Dr. Reitzel said. “We are ready for your emergencies.”

Delay of care could result in poorer overall health outcomes and even life-threatening situations. For example, statistics show Arkansans die from heart attacks at a higher rate than any other state in the union, and a common reason for death is unwillingness to seek emergency care.
Another example is stroke, which has a treatment that can prevent disability and death if people seek care early in its course. To receive this lifesaving treatment, people must come to the hospital within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms.

If you are concerned about your health or think you are experiencing a life-threatening condition such as a heart attack or stroke, call 911 or your doctor or seek care at the nearest emergency department. Typical signs and symptoms of a medical emergency include the following:
• Chest pain
• Difficulty breathing
• Trouble lifting your arms or weakness
• Fainting or loss of consciousness; dizziness, loss of vision
• Severe abdominal pain
• Uncontrolled bleeding
• Severe vomiting or vomiting that includes blood
• Confusion or changes in cognitive function and behavior
• Feeling suicidal or homicidal
• Head or spinal injuries
• Injury due to a motor vehicle crash or other accident
• Ingestion of a poisonous or dangerous substance

In a medical emergency, time is of the essence. The emergency department is open 24 hours a day and remains the safest place to receive care.

Baptist Health’s physicians, nurses and other medical professionals are ready to treat you for strokes, heart attacks, and other emergent conditions, but they can only help if patients come to the hospital for treatment.

Even follow-up appointments with your primary care physician or specialist to discuss chronic conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or asthma can continue despite the pandemic.

“We’re still here providing the level of attention and care we always have in our clinics. We’ve just added an alternative to an in-person visit for those who desire,” said Dr. Justin Voris of Baptist Health Family Clinic-Massard. “Through Baptist Health MyChart, we can offer telehealth which entails audio and video communication to see those patients who experience certain illnesses or may require a medication refill, but do not want to get out in public.”

Baptist Health Virtual Care offers a stay-at-home solution to those in need of care. Physicians within the app are prepared to screen for COVID-19 and make recommendations for next steps any time of day, as well as provide treatment for acute illnesses for the whole family.

Baptist Health is Arkansas’ most comprehensive health care organization with more than 200 points of access that include 11 hospitals; urgent care centers; a senior living community and over 100 primary and specialty care clinics in Arkansas and eastern Oklahoma. The system additionally offers a college with studies in nursing and allied health; a graduate residency program; and access to virtual care anytime, anywhere. Baptist Health, as the largest not-for-profit health care organization based in Arkansas, provides care to patients wherever they are through the support of approximately 11,000 employees, groundbreaking treatments, renowned physicians and community outreach programs. For more information about Baptist Health, visit, call Baptist Health HealthLine at 1-888-BAPTIST or download the myBaptistHealth app. Find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.