Across the nation, people are avoiding going to the emergency room, even for heart attacks, strokes, and surgical emergencies. This is leading to an increase in preventable death and lifelong disability. Here’s what you need to know about going to the ER during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Is It Too Risky to Visit the ER During COVID-19?
Jose Robert Rosillo, MD, FACEP, Executive Vice President of IES Houston, explains why timely care is so important.
“Many ED diagnoses are time-critical. For every second you wait with an untreated ischemic stroke, 1.9 million neurons die. Heart attacks are also time-critical and can be tricky to detect. I had treated a significant amount of people who thought they were having indigestion when, in fact, they were having a heart attack. We have the tools necessary to detect life-threatening emergencies.”
What Is the Risk of Catching COVID-19 at the Emergency Department?
“The likelihood of contracting COVID-19 is minimal since we mask all patients, visitors, and staff. It is safer than going to other places, like grocery stores, where masking is not enforced,” Dr. Rosillo explains.
Additionally, our ERs are following advanced protocol to keep patients safe.
“We are minimizing the use of the waiting room, moving patients into rooms as soon as possible, and immediately masking every patient and visitor on arrival. All of our staff are also wearing masks. This significantly decreases the possibility of infecting each other. Every room and waiting room are routinely cleaned. Finally, patients with respiratory symptoms are placed in a specific and separate portion of the ED, as space allows. Some of our EDs are also using UV disinfectant technology on top of our usual infection control measures.”
Experiencing a Medical Emergency? Here’s What to Do
- Call 911 or have someone drive you to the ER. In life-threatening situations, we recommend calling 911 so dispatch can provide you with urgent instructions and EMS can come quickly to your aid. Alert dispatch personnel of your symptoms and whether you have been tested for, diagnosed with, or potentially exposed to COVID-19. You may request the ambulance take you to a St. Luke’s Health ER. If someone is driving you, call the ER staff to let them know you’re on your way. Remember to never get behind the wheel to drive yourself to the emergency room.
- Put on a mask if you’re able to.
If you have an accessible face covering and aren’t experiencing breathing difficulties, put on the mask before coming into contact with someone, whether it be EMS personnel or emergency room staff. If you do not have a mask, you will be given one to wear in the ambulance or at the ER.
- Prepare for COVID-19 symptom screening. Upon arrival, a team member will ask you about your symptoms and check your temperature. You will then be asked to proceed to one of two designated areas: one for patients who display symptoms of COVID-19 and one for those who do not. This way, we can prevent patients without symptoms from crossing paths with those who do.