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Adventist Health Howard Memorial reminds community: Don't avoid the ER for medical emergencies

Community Needs, Emergency Department, COVID-19

As concerns around COVID-19 continues and with shelter in place orders, Adventist Health Howard Memorial emergency room staff are worried that patients are avoiding medical care out of fear, especially when it comes to life-threatening conditions. Hospital staff wants to remind the community to come to the emergency department in if they feel they need medical care.

“We don’t want patients at home suffering when we are here to provide help,” shares Dr. Brandon Begley, DO, emergency physician at Adventist Health Howard Memorial

He said people should not wait or hesitate to come to the hospital for an emergency. “We are capable of taking care of you still,” said Dr. Begley. “We are ready and are taking all of the appropriate precautions to be able to safely care for all of our patients.” 

For some health emergencies, waiting too long to get help can cause complications and can be catastrophic, explains Dr. Begley. “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 scared to come in or heeding the call to stay home and thinking they are doing their part to help the hospitals by staying away. 

“I think the tragedy here would be, if we have people who are in pain and suffering at home with a critical illness and end up seeking care too late”.  explains Amy Buckingham, RN, emergency services director. 

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. People are being considerate, and they don’t want to burden the hospital if they don’t have to. And we are grateful to them for thinking of us. But we also want them to know that we’re here for them if they need us,” she adds. 

Others are just afraid of coming in thinking they can get the virus by going to the hospital. But Buckingham explains that the hospital has 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. Patients coming in who think they have symptoms of COVID-19 are also asked to call ahead, to allow hospital staff to prepare and do car-side screening if necessary, to protect staff and other patients. 

All hospital staff wear protective equipment, especially those working with suspected coronavirus patients, Buckingham said. The hospital 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 of any virus. 

Both Dr. Begley and Buckingham emphasized that anyone experiencing emergency symptoms should call 911 or come into the emergency department. 

“We need patients to come in if they are sick, especially unexplained symptoms such as chest pain, slurred speech, facial drooping, confusion, high fever, abdominal pain, or any worrisome symptoms that someone may be experiencing.” Dr. Begley adds. 

Redwood Medical Clinic also now offers virtual visits to provide care to patients in their homes.  

“We’re not overwhelmed,” Buckingham said. “Don’t stay home in pain. You should never put off seeking medical care We’re here for you, we got you”.