Self-isolate. Stay healthy at home. Avoid people who are sick. That’s all great advice to help you protect yourself and your family during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what if you are experiencing a medical emergency?
St. Claire Regional Medical Center’s emergency department has seen a 50% drop in patient visits over the past month, but it’s not because our communities suddenly became healthier.
“I think people are concerned to come to the emergency department because they are scared they could contract the coronavirus while they’re here,” said Phillip Overall, MD, Emergency Physician and Medical Director for Pandemic Response at St. Claire HealthCare.
While we’ve all been focused on reducing the spread of COVID-19, concerns have been rising over the virus’s hidden victims. People are nervous so it’s no surprise they’re leery of a visit to the doctor’s office or emergency department. Unfortunately, anxiety over contracting the virus has left many delaying or avoiding much needed medical care which can lead to preventable medical emergencies.
“Patients are now presenting to emergency departments sicker,” said Dr. Overall. “We’ve seen multiple individuals present in extremes due to untreated congestive heart failure or COPD because they’ve delayed seeking treatment. We’ve also seen several cases that would have initially been a routine surgical case evolve into a surgical emergency due to delays in seeking treatment.”
If you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke-like symptoms, worsening of symptoms of a chronic illness, or other signs of a medical emergency, don’t try to wait out the coronavirus. Seek emergency medical care by calling 9-1-1 or visiting your nearest emergency room.
“We certainly agree with and support the recommendations by the CDC and government officials but we want the citizens of the Commonwealth to know that emergency rooms across the state are open, safe, clean, and prepared to take care of them if they are experiencing a medical emergency,” said Dr. Overall.
St. Claire Regional Medical Center has taken multiple actions to protect both patients and staff. Physical barriers have been set up in the emergency department waiting area to keep patients separate in terms of well waiting and sick waiting. All patients are screened at the main entrance and anyone with symptoms of COVID-19 is directed to the sick waiting room. Patients are screened multiple times during their visit by registration staff, nurses, and again by physicians. Anyone who presents with COVID-19 symptoms is appropriately segregated from well patients to reduce the risk of potentially spreading illness.
“It’s important everyone knows our hospital and clinics are safe, and healthcare providers are ready and waiting to provide the care our patients need,” said Overall. “Our patients are nervous and that’s completely understandable, but we don’t want to see their conditions worsen or medical emergencies develop because of fear.”
For non-emergent medical needs, you can now connect with your St. Claire HealthCare providers through virtual visits from the comfort of your home. St. Claire also offers virtual curbside visits outside the Medical Pavilion for patients who don’t have a mobile device or just aren’t comfortable with technology. Virtual or curbside virtual visits can be requested by calling 606.784.6641 or visiting www.st-claire.org/appointment.