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Your Healthy Family: Local heart surgeon says don't put off care over COVID concerns

Posted at 11:52 AM, Jun 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-26 13:52:18-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we're getting a strong reminder from a Colorado Springs heart surgeon that your health should not be ignored because of fears of contracting coronavirus.

Dr. Peter Walinsky, senior director of cardiac and vascular surgery at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, specializes in complex cardiac surgeries and has kept a steady pace on critical cases through the pandemic.

“Cardiac surgery is not elective surgery; in almost every case it's either urgent or emergent. The longer that people wait, especially with heart valve disease, the sicker they are when they finally come to surgery, so if people have significant disease, and they were on the schedule and wanted to be done, they need to be done.”

Dr. Walinsky feels public fears from COVID-19 did cause some patients to be reluctant to seek care. “There's no question that the patients I saw in March, April and May were sicker and the operations were more urgent, and they stayed in the hospital longer.”

So if concerns about this coronavirus are keeping you away from the care you need right now, Dr. Walinsky says the data also says – “don't wait.” “It's a huge mistake because the hospital is a very safe place to be. Patients should have absolutely no qualms about coming to the hospital if they think that they have something wrong. It should be like COVID doesn't exist as far as that goes. It doesn’t matter if it's just pain, belly pain or chest pain, the hospital, especially this hospital (UCHealth Memorial Central) is a very safe place to be. Our numbers haven't been above 8 or 10 patients total in the last six weeks or so.”

In a future story, Dr. Walinsky will talk about reaching a big milestone in Colorado Springs, performing his 1000th heart surgery. We will introduce you to his 1000th patient and learn how the cardiac surgery program has grown at UCHealth Memorial over the last four years.

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