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The ER is safe: Don’t delay medical care due to fear of COVID exposure

By Richard Steinmann

Date:

I'm an emergency medicine physician (an ER doc) and I have a message for you: It’s safe. Your ER is safe.

For weeks — months, really — people were told to avoid hospitals. They were places where the COVID-19 virus lay in wait. Unless you were desperately ill you were better off riding it out at home, rather than risking infection by seeking medical attention.

And we did. We stayed home. And it turns out there was a cost to staying home. The price we’re paying for avoiding or delaying health care is that more of us have gotten sick from diseases that could be treated or cured with more timely care. COVID-19 doesn’t prevent people from having heart attacks and strokes, but it does make many of them afraid to get care, which can be lethal.

 The bottom line is that cancer patients need their therapies, asthmatics need help to breathe, septic patients need antibiotics, and people with heart attacks need their arteries opened. 

Since the coronavirus pandemic hit, the number of patients visiting emergency rooms nationwide dropped by 40 percent to 50 percent. These statistics mirror what we have seen in Syracuse and across the region. Thankfully, more people are now getting the message that it is not good to delay emergency care.

The good news is that the ER is safe. Hospitals in Central New York have not been overwhelmed. And, we know how to take care of patients and ourselves without putting anyone at unnecessary risk. We know how to use our PPE (personal protective equipment). We know about masks, the importance of hand washing, gloves, gowns, hoods, and face shields. We know how to be safe and we know how to keep our patients safe.

The take-home message? If you have an emergency, something scary and maybe even dangerous, you can go to your ER. We will take care of you and we will keep you safe. Don’t stay home and hope the chest pain goes away on its own. Don’t stay home and hope the stroke symptoms will be better after a nap. Lifesaving medical treatment is time sensitive — your chances of full recovery are vastly improved if you get early treatment.

If you have something emergent, come to the ER. We’re here to help. And you will be safe.        

Richard Steinmann is a doctor in the Pomeroy Emergency Services Department at Crouse Hospital.