ST. LOUIS — Nationwide and here in St. Louis, there's been a dramatic drop in hospital and doctor visits during the pandemic. 

From regular appointments to life-threatening issues, physicians are urging patients to continue seeking help.

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Dr. Cassandra Haddox is an emergency medicine physician and the medical director at St. Mary's emergency department. She said the hospital has seen a 40-50% volume decrease in ER visits during the pandemic.

"Go to the ER, if you need to go to the ER. You have to listen to your body and take care of it," Dr. Haddox said. 

Dr. Akash Kansagra is a Washington University neuro-radiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He said patients aren't coming in with life-threatening health issues, such as strokes.

"We’ve had a dramatic decline in patients with strokes. We found there was a 39% decrease in the number of stroke evaluations done in the hospital," he said. 

"The longer patients go without treatment, the less likely that treatment is to be effective," Dr. Kansagra said. "Please come to the hospital, it can literally save a life."

Both doctors worry the lack of much needed medical attention, could lead to other risks. Even canceling regular doctor visits is troublesome.

"Part of good preventive care is making sure you go to the doctor when you need to, that you're getting your checkups," Dr. Haddox said. 

Dr. Haddox said she thinks the decline is due to a lack of knowledge. She said they are still getting calls to see if they're open. 

It's also the fear of the virus.

"We know that anxiety can be incredibly powerful and hijack the way we think about things," Washington University Psychologist Dr. Tim Bono said.

He acknowledged the anxiety is normal, but it shouldn't stop you from taking care of other health issues.

Dr. Bono said one of the main drivers of anxiety is feeling loss of control. So, in order to feel some sense of control is by minimizing the risk, such as washing our hands and social distancing.

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"Certainly we have to take this situation seriously, but let’s not lose sight at the fact that there are ways to protect ourselves," Dr. Bono said. 

The doctors all said they're also taking proactive steps to take care of patients. But they said they can only take care of you if you seek help.

"The bottom line is, you still have to take care of yourself and our job as medical providers is still to provide care for you," Dr. Haddox said passionately. 

The doctors said when you come to the office or hospital wear a mask. If you need to visit the doctor's office, call ahead.

Those two measures could ease some of that anxiety since you'll learn about the proper precautions in place.

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