Wednesday, 05 October 2022

Santos: Don’t delay emergency care, even in a pandemic

Walk through our hospitals, and you’ll notice something: silence.

Our hospital corridors, usually bustling with caregivers and patients, have been unusually quiet these past few weeks. Many of the beds in our inpatient units have gone unfilled. The number of patients suffering from heart attacks, strokes and chest pains has appeared to decline. Fewer emergency surgeries are being performed and nonemergent surgeries are being postponed.

While fewer emergencies may sound like cause for celebration, we know that the reality is grim. As much as we’d like to believe it’s because people are not suffering from life-threatening conditions, we know that’s not the case.

Across the communities we serve, loved ones, including the elderly and medically vulnerable, have been delaying or avoiding care out of fear of coming to the hospital during a pandemic. In other cases, our community members feel a sense of duty to avoid the hospital to not overwhelm healthcare resources.

It’s not an isolated issue. The number of hospital visits are dropping around the world – an unusual occurrence at the tail end of flu season.

We’ve seen our community take extraordinary measures amid this pandemic to practice responsible social distancing, “flattening the curve” and keeping our healthcare workers safe. We’re grateful for that, but the measures – meant to prevent an unmanageable surge of COVID-19 patients – have had unintended consequences.

At Adventist Health, the number of people coming into our emergency department has decreased by more than half across our multi-state system.

This is distressing for those who are suffering from otherwise minor conditions that can worsen without immediate medical care. A man in one of our communities, for example, took a bad spill off his bicycle and fractured a bone. He called the hospital to see if it was safe to come in for treatment.

Let me answer his question for everyone who might be asking themselves the same thing during this pandemic: Yes, our hospitals are safe. Emergencies happen, and you should never delay care.

We recognize that some might fear going to the hospital during these uncertain times. But we should never let fear get in the way of receiving needed medical care. If we allow it to, then this pandemic will have indirectly claimed more lives and wreaked more havoc than it should have.

Our community has done its job socially distancing. That has provided us adequate time to prepare for any potential surge of patients, put into place infection prevention measures to halt the spread of COVID-19 within our hospital walls, and most of all, keep our patients and caregivers safe.

Adventist Health Clear Lake wants to continue keeping our community healthy and safe. Part of that is providing safe, high-quality emergency care. Emergency care should never be put off or avoided, especially during a pandemic.

Emergencies happen. Please don’t delay your care.

David Santos is the president at Adventist Health Clear Lake in Clearlake, California.

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