Michigan reports 62% increase in out-of-hospital deaths

The state's chief medical executive urged residents not to delay care over COVID-19 fears


Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

LANSING, Mich. — Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun is urging Michigan residents to go to the hospital for medical emergencies as recent figures show an alarming increase in out-of-hospital deaths at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From March 15 to May 23, out-of-hospital deaths soared 62% from the same time period in 2019 and out-of-hospital cardiac arrests increased 43.3%, according to data from Michigan EMS agencies.

Michigan's Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun (left) urged residents not to delay medical treatment after the state saw a 62% increase in out-of-hospital deaths during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Michigan Executive Office of the Governor via AP)
Michigan's Chief Medical Executive Dr. Joneigh Khaldun (left) urged residents not to delay medical treatment after the state saw a 62% increase in out-of-hospital deaths during the pandemic. (AP Photo/Michigan Executive Office of the Governor via AP)

Michigan EMS transports during that same time period decreased 17%, heart attack transports declined 10% and stroke transports fell 12.1%.

“It is incredibly important that people not delay care, especially if they are having concerning symptoms like chest pain, difficulty breathing or dizziness,” Khaldun said in Thursday statement.

Experts have speculated the number of people willing to go to the hospital for serious conditions have decreased out of fear of contracting COVID-19 in emergency care.

In addition, clinics and hospitals were barred for several weeks by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's executive order from performing non-essential procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic, though physicians were given broad discretion regarding what constituted a medical emergency that would bypass the order.

Whitmer's order led to a federal lawsuit in mid-May by three Michigan medical centers and a patient that challenged her ban on non-essential procedures. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed this week to review the constitutionality of the governor's emergency powers at the request of a Grand Rapids federal judge.

“The curve has been flattened,” said Dr. Randal Baker, president of Grand Health Partners, a plaintiff in the case. “There will likely be spikes of cases in the future, but we can’t shut down non-COVID health care every time. We need to reassess the best practices to save the most lives, particularly where COVID-19 cases are low.”

Nationally, emergency department visits plunged 42% in the 10 weeks following President Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency related to the pandemic, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Every minute counts in a medical emergency and we hope this alarming trend of people avoiding care and dying needlessly doesn’t continue," said Jack Fisher, executive director and president of the Michigan Association of Ambulance Services.

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©2020 The Detroit News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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