CALGARY -- Avoiding hospitals due to fears over the pandemic or concerns that medical staff are overwhelmed could put people dealing with non-coronavirus health matters at risk.

The death of a non-COVID-19 patient prompted a Calgary doctor to post a tweet urging people who are in need of medical attention to seek help right away.

"I certainly don’t think we’re overwhelmed and people need to hear that," said Dr. Jeff Shaw who is a cardiologist doing an intensive care unit fellowship at the Foothills Medical Centre.

"What’s difficult is to think about cases that could have gone a different way, perhaps."

He said anyone with symptoms of a heart attack or other urgent health concerns should seek help immediately.

"If you’re in distress just come to the hospital through 911," he said.

He added if you’re unsure you should call 811 for advice on whether to go to the hospital.

Dr. Eddy Lang, who is an emergency room doctor at Foothills Medical Centre said hesitation to get medical attention could put patients in a dangerous position.

"Some of them are definitely coming in later than they should have for an important medical proble," said Dr. Lang.

He said patients should not be concerned because safety measures are in place to separate the people with COVID-19.

Weeks ago non-emergency procedures were cancelled to free up space and Dr. Lang said hospitals are only at abut 70 per cent of their capacity.

"Emergency visits are down, our hospitalizations are down, ambulance transports are down," he said. "Everything is down 30 to 40 per cent," adding that is only in part from people avoiding hospitals due to the coronavirus.

It's also because there are fewer people out getting hurt doing activities.

"We are not seeing any people breaking clavicles on the ski hill or the hockey rink," said Dr. Lang.

Physical distancing and increased hand washing has also meant fewer cases of communicable diseases such as flu and food poisoning.

"All of those things have disappeared because we're all now germaphobes," Lang said.