Mountain Health Network urges public not to delay emergency care during pandemic

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Mountain Health Network (MHN) and its hospitals, Cabell Huntington Hospital (CHH) and St. Mary’s Medical Center (SMMC), are urging the public not to delay emergency care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MHN emergency departments have seen a decline in patients seeking emergency care for conditions such as chest pain or stroke symptoms. Officials say the decline may be due to concerns about COVID-19.

“We are seeing declines as much as 50% in our emergency rooms,” said Hoyt Burdick, MD, chief clinical officer, MHN. “However, we know that emergencies do not stop during a pandemic and so we are concerned that people are not receiving the life-saving care that they need.”

Though part of the decline can be attributed to people staying at home and not being as mobile, other people may be avoiding seeking treatment because they have concerns about visiting a hospital where patients are being treated for COVID-19, Burdick said.

“We want the community to know that the Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary’s ERs in Huntington, as well as St. Mary’s ER in Ironton, are open and ready for patients,” Burdick said. “Our emergency departments are taking every precaution to help keep all of our patients safe.”

“We understand people are concerned about exposure to COVID-19 when coming to the ER. However, we are starting to see patients with chest pain, abdominal pain, and stroke symptoms wait too long to be evaluated,” said Larry Hutchison, MD, medical director, SMMC Huntington Emergency Department. “Many of these symptoms represent problems where every minute counts. We have your safety in mind and have confidence that our system will keep you safe while being evaluated in the emergency department.”

Patients can expect to be screened before entering the hospital. If patients answer “yes” to any of the following questions, additional measures are taken.
1. Do you have any of the following?

  • Fever
  • Productive New Cough
  • New shortness of breath
  • New body aches
  • New sore throat

2. Do you have a pending COVID-19 test?

  • If they have no symptoms and had the COVID-19 screening for an upcoming surgery, then they may continue

3. Have you had close contact with:

  • A known COVID-19 patient?
  • A person in quarantine or awaiting COVID-19 results?

4. Have you had any travel internationally, to New York, or cruise within the last 14 days?
Additional precautions the ERs are taking include:

Placing patients suspected of COVID-19 in separate waiting areas and treatment areas.

  • Vigorously cleaning and sanitizing surfaces.
  • Requiring all staff members to wear masks at all times.
  • Working with area EMS to sanitize ambulances and provide masks and other PPE.
  • Enhancing patient safety and patient flow processes.

“Our main goal is to provide emergency care to everyone who needs it in the safest manner possible, so we ask patients to please not delay coming to the emergency room if you have a true medical emergency,” said Beth Toppins, MD, medical director, CHH Emergency Department. “We want to be able to intervene in a timelier manner to achieve the best outcome instead of the patient delaying care until it’s too late.”

“Anything that was an emergency before the COVID-19 pandemic still is,” said James Wagenaar, DO, medical director, SMMC Ironton Emergency Department. “If you have chest pain, stroke symptoms, anything dangerous or anything that affects your quality of life, you need to come in. COVID-19 is serious and not to be taken lightly, but it is much less dangerous than a heart attack or stroke.”

CHH and SMMC are also continuing their no visitor policy to minimize the number of people in the hospitals. As such, family members are not permitted to accompany adult patients unless absolutely necessary. If an exception of an essential caregiver is needed for assistance, only one person may accompany a patient and the caregiver is asked to wait in their vehicle during treatment.

“Both hospital emergency departments are well-staffed and running smoothly,” Burdick said. “Our ERs are open and ready to serve all the health needs of our community.”

Emergency Symptoms
People who are having any of the following symptoms should seek emergency care by going to the ER or calling 911:

  • Dizziness or weakness that does not go away
  • Inhaled smoke or poisonous fumes
  • Sudden confusion
  • Heavy bleeding
  • Possible broken bone with loss of movement, especially if the bone is pushing through the skin
  • Deep wound
  • Serious burn
  • Coughing or throwing up blood
  • Severe pain anywhere in the body
  • Severe allergic reaction with trouble breathing, swelling, hives
  • High fever with headache and stiff neck
  • High fever that doesn’t get better with medicine
  • Throwing up or loose stools that don’t stop
  • Poisoning or overdose of drug or alcohol
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Seizures

Call 911 to have the emergency team take you to the ER right away for:

  • Choking
  • Stopped breathing
  • Head injury with passing out, fainting or confusion
  • Injury to neck or spine, especially if there is loss of feeling or inability to move
  • Electric shock or lightning strike
  • Severe burn
  • Seizure that lasted 3-5 minutes
  • Trouble breathing
  • Passing out, fainting
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Pain in the arm or jaw
  • Unusual or bad headache, especially if it started suddenly
  • Suddenly not able to speak, see, walk or move
  • Suddenly weak or drooping on one side of the body