Mendocino Coast District Hospital reminds community: Don’t delay emergency care even during a pandemic

Friday, May 22, 2020 (Fort Bragg, CA) -- As concerns around COVID-19 continues and with shelter in place orders, Mendocino Coast District Hospital (soon to be known as Adventist Health Mendocino Coast) emergency room staff are worried that non-coronavirus patients are avoiding getting much-needed medical care out of fear, especially when it comes to life-saving treatments for conditions such as stroke, heart attack or surgical emergencies. Hospital staff wants to remind the community to come in if they have a medical emergency.

“We are worried, based on the patients we are now seeing, that people have delayed seeking medical care despite having emergent and urgent conditions” shares Dr. Robin Serrahn, MD, emergency physician at MCDH.

He said people should not wait or hesitate to come to the hospital for an emergency. “We are capable of providing a safe environment for evaluation of all patients and do not want patients to delay life-saving or life-changing care due to fear of contracting COVID-19,” said Dr. Serrahn.

For some health emergencies, waiting too long to get help can cause complications and can be catastrophic, explains Dr. Serrahn. “For example, waiting too long for evaluation in cases such as stroke, chest pain, etc., can result in severe, even life-threatening consequences. Most of the time, when patients arrive in a timely manner we can identify and treat these conditions successfully. However, waiting too long, could prevent proper care such as in the case for stroke or heart attacks.”

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 concern for us, is if people are avoiding seeking care in the emergency department out of fear of COVID-19, or by trying to protect those working in emergency departments, they could be putting themselves at a higher risk ,” explains Anita West RN, manager for the hospital’s emergency department.

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. They are being considerate, and they don’t want to burden the hospital if they don’t have to. We are grateful to them for thinking of us, but we also want to reassure people that we’re here for them if they need us.”

Our community has done a great job of sheltering in place and doing their part to flatten the curve. We certainly don’t want them to stay at home and suffer in pain,” explains West.

Community members may be afraid of coming in thinking they can get the virus by going to the hospital. But West explains that the hospital has taken steps to keep everyone safe, including limiting visitors, screening all staff and patients and doing more cleaning and disinfecting to prevent the spread of the virus. Waiting rooms have also been reconfigured to allow for social distancing. All patients and staff are also given masks to help prevent anyone with a COVID-19 infection but no symptoms from spreading the virus.

All hospital staff wear protective equipment, especially those working with suspected coronavirus patients, who are fully gowned and masked. The staff is cleaning and disinfecting thoroughly, including a routine cleaning of all surfaces every few hours, and cleaning and disinfecting chairs between patients. Waiting rooms have also been reconfigured for social distancing.

Both Dr. Serrahn and West emphasized that anyone experiencing emergency symptoms should call 911 or come into the emergency department. The risk of catching COVID-19 is lower than the risk of ignoring serious symptoms, they said.

“We need them to come in if they are sick, especially when experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, difficulty breathing, slurred speech, facial drooping or confusion, or even abdominal pain that is not going way or relieved by taking over the counter pain medications,” Dr. Serrahn adds.

“Anyone with symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, we want them here as soon as possible. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s best to reach out, whether that’s going to the emergency room or by giving your doctor a call,” he shares.

“We’re not overwhelmed,” West said. “Please don’t stay home in pain wondering if you should come. We’re still here for you. We want to care for our community, and we can provide that care in a safe manner even during this time.”


Cici Winiger, Communications Manager
Adventist Health Mendocino County
(707) 456-3591 Office | Email

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