When to Seek Emergency Care during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Nathan Harmon, MD – BCHC Medical Director of Emergency
Jillian Schatzle, MSN, RN – BCHC Emergency Department Manager
In the midst of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, medical emergencies and urgent situations unrelated to the virus still occur. So, when should you seek medical care for a condition that you feel cannot wait during this pandemic? And how do you know that you are safe?
As we continue to make unprecedented decisions related to the COVID-19 illness across the state and nation; at BCHC we are committed to ensuring the safety of our team members, patients and community. Knowing the level the of care you need, whether it be in our emergency room, urgent care, respiratory clinic, primary care clinic, or even through telemedicine at BCHC ensures that you get the appropriate treatment during this pandemic.
When to seek care in the emergency room
There are several medical conditions that are considered emergencies, whether related or unrelated to COVID-19. It is important that you do not delay these services, as some health emergencies could have life-threatening or debilitating side-effects. Symptoms that are best evaluated in an emergency room can include, among other things:
- Signs of a heart attack—including chest pain or pressure
- Signs of a stroke—changes in vision, weakness on one side of the body, facial droop, numbness, slurred speech, sudden or new onset of confusion
- Fainting or change in mental state
- Upper abdominal pain or pressure
- Shortness of breath
- Severe allergic reaction with swelling and trouble breathing
- Accidental poisoning or overdose
- Heavy or uncontrolled bleeding
- Serious burns
- Head injury with fainting or confusion
- Neck or spine injury with a loss of feeling or movement
- Broken bones/dislocated joints
- Severe cuts and amputations
- Sudden or excessive pain
- Coughing up or vomiting blood
- Suicidal or homicidal feelings
- Major life-or limb-threatening injuries
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients who develop any emergency warning signs for COVID-19 should get medical attention immediately. The warning signs include, but are not limited to:
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion or lethargy
- Bluish lips or face
Call Before You Come
If you experience any of the above symptoms you should first call 911, and notify the operator of your symptoms, but also alert them if you have or that you think you might have COVID-19. If possible put on a face mask before medical help arrives to your home.
Under no circumstance should you avoid emergency rooms or wait until the next day to see a doctor if you feel that your symptoms are truly emergent.
BCHC Emergency Department Transitions
The BCHC Emergency Department has the ability to immediately screen patients that are entering in a space at the main ER entrance to determine if COVID-19 is a concern. We ask that anyone who seeks services at BCHC wear a mask, and if possible, call ahead and alert us if you seek emergency services and we will provide screening for COVID-19 symptoms on the phone. Upon arrival to the emergency room entrance, our nursing staff will provide you with a face mask (if you don’t already have one on). By adding this extra level of screening and masking, this also protects other patients and staff from possible exposure to the virus that may be visiting our ER for emergencies that are unrelated to COVID-19. Our dedicated screening location has been converted to an appropriate airborne infection isolation standard that provides negative pressure with the appropriate air exchanges which exhaust directly through HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filtration.
We have increased the number of negative pressure isolation rooms within our ER that we can safely isolate patients with COVID-19 or those that may be experiencing any respiratory symptoms similar to COVID-19. BCHC has also adapted additional rooms and hospital areas to care for larger numbers of patients if needed. These spaces allow our team of staff to appropriately care for any patients coming in, but also to minimize exposure to other patients as well.
Like many healthcare organizations across the state and nation right now, BCHC too has restricted visitors that enter our facility as an added safeguard with limited exceptions. Because of this, we have implemented “virtual visitors” which allows for families to be connected to their loved one while at the hospital.
If you feel that your symptoms are not emergent enough to be seen in our emergency room, we continue to offer other services at BCHC to help care for you during this COVID-19 pandemic. Please do not ignore your health and well-being during this time of pandemic.
Any community member who has questions or concerns related to COVID-19 is encouraged to call the BCHC Call Center (319) 332-0894. The BCHC Call Center is open seven days a week from 8am-8pm and is staffed by medical professionals. Based upon presenting concerns, the provider may request a telehealth video appointment with the caller or direct the caller to the most appropriate service at BCHC.
To stay up-to-date with the latest news and announcements from Buchanan County Health Center, please visit BCHealth.org or follow “Buchanan County Health Center on Facebook.