Do Not Delay Emergency Care Despite COVID-19
Most of us have a basic understanding that there is an appropriate time to go to the emergency room and when that time comes, we go without hesitation. However, as it has with just about everything in our lives, the COVID-19 crisis has the potential to change our health behaviors in a very serious, and quite frankly, dangerous way. One of the consequences of constant COVID-19 crisis coverage may be that many people believe that hospitals are (or soon will be) completely overrun and that they have become a breeding ground for the virus – in other words: avoid at all costs. That’s far from the truth.
While there certainly are hospitals, especially in the Northeast, that are straining under their coronavirus caseload, the need and attention to emergency care has not changed. Most hospitals have already suspended elective procedures and they are doing so to free up resources, mostly in the form of personal protective gear. However, hospitals are not ignoring that emergency care still exists and requires the utmost in attention.
Where’s the Trouble?
Some patients believe that they may alternately get infected by the virus if they go to the hospital or that they are, somehow, taking away from the care of COVID-19 patients and inconveniencing their doctors. Many may assume that their pain is manageable for the foreseeable future, and they will avoid going to the hospital, despite their better judgment. So, what should you believe?
What’s the Truth?
First, the way we handle COVID-19 patients and those seeking emergency treatment remain separate. Most hospitals have implemented special entrances and isolation protocols for COVID-19 patients, so that the rest the hospital is not affected. Emergency rooms continue to run as before for any urgent, serious matters.
Second, allowing a problem – in our case abdominal issues – to linger, can turn a relatively straightforward procedure into something more complex with a higher likelihood of complications and even death.
Follow your intuition. You know your body best. If you believe you’re having an emergency, do not wait to dial 9-1-1 or go to your nearest emergency room. It is far better to be safe than sorry. Abdominal pain is common and can be anything from trapped gas, indigestion, or food poisoning, to potentially fatal conditions such as ruptured appendix, strangulated hernia and more. It’s best to get a proper diagnosis.
Third, many physician offices remain open, and most are still taking consultations and meetings via teleconference. If you do not believe your problem is an emergency, but you do feel there is something wrong, explore telehealth options or call your practice to schedule an appointment or discuss your symptoms remotely. Your doctor or clinical staff will offer advice on next steps.
If you recently had surgery and believe you may be having a complication, it is extremely important that you connect with your surgeon. Even if you believe that the problem is trivial, it may not be. Check your postoperative packet to learn more about how to identify common complications after your surgery and when it is time to call your doctor or to head to the ER.
We certainly hope that the COVID-19 crisis is not exacerbated by patients who avoid a trip to the emergency room when it is absolutely needed. Despite how it may seem to the contrary, you have many options to get in contact with an experienced clinician, and many of the medical resources that you need remain open and functioning. Please don’t be afraid to use those resources – prioritize your health and stay safe.