MENDOCINO CO., 4/28/20 — Although many clinics and physicians have switched to remote appointments for routine visits during the pandemic, if you are having a medical emergency, staff at Adventist Health want to remind the community not to avoid going to the emergency room if you think you need treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms similar to the novel coronavirus, call ahead to your doctor, clinic, or to 911 to give them a warning.
Here’s the announcement from Adventist Health:
As concerns around COVID-19 continues and with shelter in place orders, Adventist Health ‘s emergency room staff at both hospitals are worried that non-coronavirus patients are avoiding getting much-needed medical care out of fear, especially when it comes to life-saving treatments for conditions such as stroke, heart attack or surgical emergencies. Hospital staff wants to remind the community to come in if they have a medical emergency.
“We are worried, based on the patients we are now seeing, that people have delayed seeking medical care despite having emergent and urgent conditions,” shares Dr. Suzanne Hiramatsu, MD, emergency physician at Adventist Health Ukiah Valley.
She said people should not wait or hesitate to come to the hospital for an emergency. “We are capable of providing a safe environment for evaluation of all patients and do not want patients to delay life-saving or life-changing care due to fear of contracting COVID-19,” said Dr. Hiramatsu.
For some health emergencies, waiting too long to get help can cause complications and can be catastrophic, explains Dr. Brandon Begley, emergency physician at Adventist Health Howard Memorial. “For example, if they come in for stroke, the treatment that we use is very time-sensitive or it won’t work. So we want them here, as soon as possible if they have symptoms.”
It’s a concern many other hospitals are seeing across the nation. With shelter in place orders and the overall effort to not overwhelm the healthcare system, hospitals are seeing huge drops in patients, who are scared to come in or heeding the call to stay home, thinking they are doing their part to help the hospitals by staying away.
“I think the concern for us, is if people are avoiding seeking care in the emergency department out of fear of COVID-19, or by trying to protect those working in emergency departments, they could be putting themselves at a higher risk ,” explains Becca Denoeu, RN, Director for emergency services Ukiah Valley.
She said the hospital has seen a significant decline in emergency room visits, dropping more than 50 percent compared to what they normally see. “It’s understandable. They are being considerate, and they don’t want to burden the hospital if they don’t have to. We are grateful to them for thinking of us, but we also want to reassure people that we’re here for them if they need us,” explains Amy Buckingham, RN, Director for emergency services for Howard Memorial.
Others are just afraid of coming in thinking they can get the virus by going to the hospital. But both hospitals have taken steps to keep everyone safe, including not allowing visitors, screening all staff and patients coming in through the door and doing more cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of the virus. All patients and staff are also given masks to help prevent anyone with a COVID-19 infection but no symptoms from spreading the virus.
All hospital staff wear protective equipment, especially those working with suspected coronavirus patients, who are fully gowned and masked. The staff is cleaning and disinfecting thoroughly, including a routine cleaning of all surfaces every few hours, and cleaning and disinfecting chairs between patients. All rooms are cleaned thoroughly and carefully between patients to prevent the spread.
Patients who have symptoms of COVID-19 such as shortness of breath, cough or fever, are asked to call ahead so staff can prepare to provide care, including doing car-side screening to protect the staff and other patients.
Both physicians emphasized that anyone experiencing emergency symptoms should call 911 or come into the emergency department. The risk of catching COVID-19 is lower than the risk of ignoring serious symptoms, they said.
“We need them to come in if they are sick, especially when experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, facial drooping or confusion, or even abdominal pain that is not going way or relieved by taking over the counter pain medications,” Dr. Begley adds.
If their symptoms are mild and they feel stable, Dr. Hiramatsu explains they can always call their primary care physician to get guidance. Aside from in-person visits, Adventist Health’s primary and specialty clinics located in Ukiah and Willits now offer virtual visits to provide care to patients in their homes. “However, anyone with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, we want them here as soon as possible. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s best to reach out, whether that’s going to the emergency room or by giving your doctor a call,” she shares.
“We’re not overwhelmed,” Denoeu said. “Please don’t stay home in pain wondering if you should come. You should not put off getting medical care just because there’s a pandemic.”
“We are here for you and ready to care for you if you need us,” adds Buckingham.