No need to avoid the emergency room during pandemic: Vancouver ER doctor


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Dr. Eric Grafstein, head of emergency medicine for the Vancouver Coastal Health Region, is cautioning people not to neglect their own health in an attempt to keep emergency rooms clear during the pandemic.

“When we look at our data we see that certain types of complaints have gone down significantly–things like chest pain, and abdominal pain–and we’re concerned that people that probably should be seeking care are either worried that the emergency departments aren’t safe, or are trying to protect the departments themselves from being too busy,” he says.

Health Minister Adrian Dix reported this week that ER visits province-wide dropped by about half between March 9 and March 30.

Grafstein wants anyone in Vancouver who is avoiding a visit to the hospital to know that emergency departments are fully staffed and ready to see anyone who requires urgent attention.

He says while your family doctor or an urgent care centre may be the best place to visit for a minor injury or malady, anyone experiencing symptoms of heart attack or stroke should not hesitate and seek help at an ER. Shortness of breath, chest pains, or numbness in one arm are some of the warning signs that should not be ignored.

And while things have changed due to COVID-19, Grafstein says departments are ready and able to see patients.

“Emergency departments are busy places at the best of times and there’s sometimes chaos and unknown situations. Introducing this kind of risk situation adds a little bit of stress but the emergency community has risen to the challenge,” he explains, adding protocols are in place and drills are conducted to endure preparedness.

“The department is set up to provide maximal safety both to patients and to staff.”

Wait times at Vancouver emergency rooms and urgent care centres are available online.

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