The Top Four Myths About Seeking ER Care in a Pandemic

Nobody wants to go the emergency room. But now, because of COVID-19,some people are afraid to go, thinking it will be too busy or that theymight be exposed to the coronavirus. We spoke with several doctors andexecutives with Baptist Health South Florida, who dispelled some common mythsabout visiting the ER during the pandemic. Bottom line? If you’re faced with alife-threatening medical emergency, don’t delay care – your life could dependon it.

MYTH #1: “I can wait and see if my symptoms go away before Idecide if I need to go to the ER.”

FACT: If you’re having a medical emergency, don’t delay vital care– call 911 or go to the ER.

Cardiologists at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida, say the number ofcardiac and stroke cases treated there has declined as much as 50 percent overthe same time last year.

Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., deputy medical director and chief of cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

Jonathan Fialkow, M.D., deputy medical director and chiefof cardiology at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, believes this means a largenumber of patients who need critical care are avoiding going to the hospitalfor fear of being exposed to COVID-19—often with tragic results.

Dr. Fialkow advises people to notignore their symptoms, especially if they have common risk factors such asobesity, smoking or a family history of heart disease. If you’re having symptoms that could be a heart attack, don’tdrive yourself to the ER—call 911. The EMS technicians will be able tostabilize you en route to the hospital.”

MYTH #2: “I am worried about being exposed to COVID-19”

FACT: All Baptist Health ERs have strict protocols to protectpatients from COVID-19.

Baptist Health is employing thelatest safety protocols and taking extraordinary steps to ensure the safety ofpatients and staff at all of its facilities throughout South Florida.

Javier Pérez-Fernández, M.D., pulmonologist and director of critical care at Baptist Hospital

According to Javier Pérez-Fernández, M.D., pulmonologist and director of critical care at Baptist Hospital, all twelve of Baptist Health’s ERs maintain special protocols for patients who have tested positive for or are suspected to have COVID-19.

“We isolate patients in a dedicated area to avoid cross-contamination with other patients and carefully clean and sanitize rooms after every patient, all while continuously maintaining the utmost protective protocols in all common areas of the hospital,” says Dr. Pérez-Fernández. Baptist Health also maintains an adequate supply of masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment for its staff, he adds.

Nancy Batista-Rodriguez, chiefexecutive officer for Baptist Outpatient Services for Baptist Health, says thehealth system has adopted additional safety practices to help keeppatients and staff safe.

Nancy Batista-Rodriguez, chief executive officer for Baptist Outpatient Services for Baptist Health

“We’re taking every possible precaution to protect the health ofour patients and staff,” Batista-Rodriguez says. “This includes limiting thenumber of visitors and ensuring proper social distancing in our facilities; conductingtemperature checks and screenings at all entry points; requiring masks to beworn inside, and thoroughly cleaning and sanitizing our lobbies, waiting rooms,equipment and all high-touch surfaces throughout the day.”

MYTH #3: “The ER will be too busy with COVID-19 patients to treatme.”

FACT: Even in a pandemic, Baptist Health’s experts can quicklyassess and triage all emergencies.

Everyone who seeks emergency treatment from Baptist Health can expect to get the professional, compassionate, quality care they need – quickly – regardless of whatever else is happening in the ER.

Sergio Segarra, M.D., emergency medicine specialist with Baptist Hospital

Sergio Segarra, M.D., emergency medicine specialist with BaptistHospital, says the ER staff has the training and experience to care formultiple patients at the same time. Referring to the coronavirus pandemic, Dr.Segarra says, “Yes, this is an emergency but emergencies are what we train forand what we’ve devoted our lives to. We’ve been stretched at times but never tothe point of being overwhelmed.”

To help the ER staff better care for you, Dr. Segarra advisesanyone seeking emergency treatment to bring these items with them: 

  • Maskor cloth face covering
  • Listof any allergies you have
  • Listof all your medicines
  • PhotoID
  • Yourmedical history
  • Yourinsurance card

You should also bring the emergency contact information of afamily member, in case that person can’t come into the ER with you.

MYTH #4: “I can’t go to the ER because I’m being treated forcancer and my immune system is compromised.”

FACT: Baptist Health is taking extraordinary precautions to makesure the ER is safe for all patients.

Experts say that cancer patients – especially those undergoing chemotherapy and radiationtherapy – are at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 and for having moresevere symptoms if they do get the virus.

Michael Zinner, M.D., chief executive officer and executive medical director of Miami Cancer Institute

“If you’re a cancer patient being treated withchemotherapy or radiation, you do need to be extra careful, as these can suppressyour immune system not just during treatment but for months afterwards,” says MichaelZinner, M.D., chief executive officer and executive medical director of MiamiCancer Institute. “That said, I can tell you that with all of the precautionsbeing taken at our facilities, going to the ER is safer than going to thegrocery store,” he says.

Forthose who require emergency care during or following their cancer treatment,Dr. Zinner advises calling your physician first and notifying ER staff uponyour arrival so that specific arrangements can be made for your care. Patientsof Miami Cancer Institute may also call upon the Express Symptom ManagementTeam, which is staffed by an ER physician and a group of Advance Practicenurses and may be able to help you resolve your issue without having to go tothe ER.

Concerned you may have coronavirus?
Use our online Coronavirus Assessment tool or call our COVID-19 hotline, 1-833-MYBAPTIST (833-692-2784). To see a doctor on your phone from thecomfort and safety of your home, download Baptist Health Care On Demand.

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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