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Seeking Emergency Care During COVID-19

Published in Trauma Services, Emergency Services, For the Health of It

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic people will still have medical situations that require emergency care.

“We want to make certain people are not delaying getting emergency help if they need it,” said Brad Hanson, Director of Emergency Medical Services for CentraCare. “If individuals are experiencing life-threatening conditions, such as a heart attack or stroke, we don’t want them not to call 911 because they’re worried about contracting the virus or are concerned about putting a strain on our medical system. We have already seen some people who have delayed seeking care and should have come in sooner.”

If you have a medical emergency, whether it is related or unrelated to COVID-19, you should call 911 and go to the emergency room. This includes any injury or illness for which a lack of immediate treatment may cause harm.

Emergency medical services (EMS) practices are based on the most up to date COVID-19 clinical recommendations and information from public health authorities and EMS medical direction to keep staff and patients safe. EMS first responders follow standard personal protective equipment (PPE) guidelines including protection for patients with known or suspected COVID-19.

After transporting a patient, the inside of the ambulance is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Some people are also concerned about coming to an emergency room and contracting COVID-19 from other patients. If you decide to seek emergency care, you will be screened for COVID-19 before entering any CentraCare or Carris Health facility to best identify and isolate those who are suspect with the virus.

"It’s important for people to know that the emergency departments are open 24/7, 365," said June Boie, Director of Critical and Emergent Care at Carris Health – Rice Memorial Hospital. “People shouldn’t hesitate to come to an emergency room if they’re having a true emergency.”

“Our emergency department is safe, operational and prepared to handle health emergencies as well as coronavirus cases,” said Boie. “Our hospitals isolate suspected COVID-19 patients to keep our other patients and healthcare professionals safe.”

If in doubt whether you should drive to the ER or call 911 and you’re experiencing an emergency, you should call 9-1-1. It’s important you get to the emergency room as quickly and safely as possible, especially if you’re experiencing chest pain or severe bleeding. Paramedics can often begin delivering life-saving treatment on the way to the hospital.

If you are at home and experiencing coronavirus-like respiratory illness symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath) or have been in contact with someone who likely has a coronavirus infection, we encourage you to call our nurse line who will direct you to the correct source of care. If clinically necessary, you will receive instruction on how to get tested in order to limit the risk of exposure to other people.

“Under no circumstance should you avoid going to an emergency room or calling 911 if you feel that your symptoms are medically serious,” said Hanson. “Every minute that you delay, the chances of having a worse outcome increase.”