Watch video: Don’t postpone emergency care during the COVID-19 crisis

Emergency physician Dr. Daniel Starr speaks to safety precautions our hospitals are taking to ensure patient safety and what he wants you to know about delaying medically necessary care.

As coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreads through our communities, it seems all other health concerns and emergency medical situations have been on hold. But that’s not the case. Even during the pandemic, emergencies unrelated to COVID-19 occur.

Our facilities and care teams are treating COVID-19 patients, while also continuing to address other health care needs, including urgent and life-threatening health emergencies.

If you have an injury or a medical situation that needs immediate attention, don’t put off getting care. It could save your life.

Act on your concerns, don’t delay

Jim Keany, M.D., an emergency department physician at Mission Hospital in Orange County, California, says patients are putting off non-COVID-19 care to their detriment. “We’re seeing patients wait too long at home, and unnecessarily suffering alone.”

The reason for delaying care is likely fear of catching or spreading COVID-19 in the hospital. But Dr. Keany says hospitals have protocols in place for infection prevention to ensure everyone remains safe, including caregivers.

"I feel the safest in the hospital where we have all the precautions at our fingertips," Dr. Keany says. 

What to expect in the E.D.

Patients who enter the E.D. can expect to see everyone wearing personal protective equipment (PPE), including a mask.

Everyone who enters the E.D. is screened at the entrance for COVID-19 symptoms, history of exposure to the virus and fever.  Anyone who screens positively for these symptoms is taken to a separate area.

Also, loved ones accompanying patients to the E.D. are not allowed in the waiting room or hospital. This is for the safety of everyone. Dr. Keany recommends families stay in contact with patients via an electronic device. He says many people use FaceTime or Zoom to talk to family and friends while waiting for or receiving treatment. If a patient is having trouble connecting, someone is there to help. “We make sure everyone gets connected to their families,” Dr. Keany says.

Where to go when you need immediate care

When you’re not feeling well or you’re experiencing cold or flu symptoms, it can be difficult to know where to go, and when. If you think your condition is life-threatening, don’t hesitate, call 911 or go to the nearest E.D.

Below are some medical symptoms and conditions that warrant a visit to the E.D. for immediate evaluation:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart attack or chest pain
  • Head trauma
  • Seizures
  • Stroke symptoms
  • Severe bleeding
  • Losing consciousness
  • Fever in a child less than age two months

When to go to an urgent care clinic

Urgent care clinics are ideal for those times you need same-day care for a minor medical emergency, or if you need other services like lab work and vaccinations.

The symptoms that can be evaluated and treated at an urgent care clinic include:

  • Sprains and minor cuts
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fever, cough, cold or flu
  • Burns
  • Minor fractures
  • Animal or insect bites
  • Dehydration
  • Vomiting or persistent diarrhea

Schedule a virtual visit with your health care provider

If your condition isn’t an emergency, but you want talk to a professional for an evaluation, schedule a virtual visit with your primary or specialty health care provider. From the comfort of your home, you can consult with your provider using Zoom technology on your smartphone, tablet or computer. If you prefer or need to talk to your provider by phone, this is an option as well. Learn more about setting up a virtual visit here.

We’re here to help

Being worried during this uncertain time is normal. The stress and anxiety – and even frustration – that comes with being quarantined can have many negative consequences to your health. Please don’t compromise your mental or physical well-being by delaying seeking care when you need it. Come see us and we’ll work through this together.

Stay informed and connected by visiting our Coronavirus Resource Center.

About the Author

The Providence Health Team brings together caregivers from diverse backgrounds to bring you clinically-sound, data-driven advice to help you live your happiest and healthiest selves.

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