Despite the large numbers of COVID-19 patients seeking care in emergency departments (ED) across the country, it remains important for people to pay attention to other emergency medical situations that can still develop during the pandemic. Patients experiencing serious medical symptoms such as chest pain or mental confusion should call 9-1-1.
“If you or a family member experiences any symptom associated with a medical emergency, you should still seek care immediately,” said Adam Bromberg, MD, ED Medical Director, Wellington Regional Medical Center. “It is understandable that people might be hesitant to go to the ED right now, but it is not a good idea to delay treatment on many of these medical emergencies. Time is critical in these medical situations.”
EDs are designed to care for patients 24/7, regardless of the emergency. If a person is experiencing symptoms that could possibly indicate a medical emergency, such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, confusion, altered speech, trouble lifting arms and weakness, he or she should seek immediate medical care.
“Unfortunately, we are starting to see patients that have waited too long to seek medical evaluation and treatment because they are concerned about going to an Emergency Room and being exposed to COVID-19,” said Bromberg. “There is a saying in emergency medicine that time saves lives and seeking medical attention when a patient is experiencing these types of symptoms is critical. The faster they can be evaluated and treated, the better the chance of a good outcome for the patient.”
We screen people at the door of the ED at Wellington Regional to determine the best location for their evaluation and treatment. Patients wait in an exam room instead of the waiting room to reduce exposure to other patients. Once in the exam room, the patient is triaged, given a medical screening exam and receives care based on their symptoms and test results. We thoroughly clean exam rooms after each visit. This may include the use of the UV light germ-fighting robot, when appropriate.
The CDC recommends people experiencing mild respiratory or flu-like symptoms to remain at home and manage those symptoms with over-the-counter medications. If symptoms continue to worsen, that person should seek immediate care at the nearest ED. As always during the COVID-19 pandemic, avoid groups of more than 10 people and practice social distancing. People who have been exposed to COVID-19 should self-quarantine for at least 14 days.