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In a medical emergency, you should call 911 and go to the emergency room—even now

April 16, 2020
Baystate Medical Center Emergency Room sign

There is an unfortunate trend now occurring in emergency departments around the United States, as well as right here at Baystate Health.

While emergency departments have been dealing with an influx of COVID-19 positive patients, other patients are shying away from treatment for minor to more serious, life-threatening illnesses such as heart attack and stroke.

Many people are afraid of getting infected with the virus while in the hospital.

Safety is an incredibly high priority

Medical professionals at Baystate Health want to keep you as safe as possible during your time at the hospital, should you need to be admitted for an emergency.

“Your safety while in the Emergency Department is our top priority. We are taking appropriate measures and doing everything possible to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus to vulnerable patients visiting our ED for a variety of other reasons. While here, you will be segregated in a separate room and not exposed to other patients behind closed doors who are being evaluated for the coronavirus,” said Dr. Niels Rathlev, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Health.

The team wears Personal Protective Equipment

Our hospital staff are taking precautions during the pandemic to keep patients safe.

Team members get their temperatures checked at the start of each shift. At the entrance of each hospital, everyone is screened for COVID-19 symptoms.

The team is required to wear personal protective equipment. Some may wear more protection than others at different times with a patient, depending on the safety needs.

The hospitals are deep cleaned

In the Emergency Department, there are separate pods for patients who are being treated for COVID-19 or have symptoms. If you go in to be treated for stroke, for example, you won’t be sitting in a waiting room with someone who’s being treated for the COVID-19.

Even so, the environmental services team has increased the frequency of cleaning in public areas like the ED. They’re cleaning everything from door knobs to elevator buttons.

While the team has always used cleaning practices that meet CDC guidelines, they’re now giving exam rooms extra cleaning between visitors.

Emergencies are still important

Emergencies should still be treated as such during this time. Call 911 and seek emergency care if you are experiencing life-threatening symptoms, like those associated with a heart attack or stroke.

“While [at Baystate] our team of experienced physicians and highly-skilled staff can begin life-saving treatment before your condition worsens,” Dr. Rathlev added. “You should not be home, but in the Emergency Department getting treatment.”

Dr. Aaron Kugelmass, vice president and medical director, Heart & Vascular Services, and Division Chief of Cardiology for Baystate Health, agrees that is important to get urgent care in a life-threatening situation.

“Every minute counts when someone is having a heart attack because it is vitally important to open that blocked artery to prevent heart muscle from dying,” said Dr. Kugelmass. “Also, stroke patients have a better chance for a successful recovery, including minimal or no disability, if treated within the first hour.”

Utilize telehealth for less urgent matters

As part of Baystate’s ongoing efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the health system is increasing its use of telehealth visits. These visits allow you to stay in the safety and comfort of your home while providing a real-time connection (similar to Skype or FaceTime) for less urgent matters with your healthcare provider on a mobile device, phone, or computer.

As a reminder, if you have a fever and respiratory symptoms and are concerned about possible exposure to COVID-19, call your healthcare provider first to see what steps you should take.