Written by Melissa Bean Sterzick
When serious health issues occur, it is dangerous to avoid or delay a visit
to the Emergency Department (ED). Many hospitals, including Torrance Memorial,
have seen emergency room visits decrease dramatically since the pandemic began.
What patients need to know is the ED at Torrance Memorial is, and has been,
fully-prepared to safeguard the health of patients and staff all throughout
the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Zachary Gray, Co-Medical Director of the Emergency
Department at Torrance Memorial, says patients should never hesitate to
seek medical care.
“It is far past the time when worrying about COVID-19 should come
in to your thinking,” he says. “We all worry people are going
to stay home and not get their emergencies taken care of. But an emergency
is time sensitive, and people suffer more risk if their emergency turns
into chronic disability or death.”
The ED at Torrance Memorial is prepared for any type of health crisis.
It is a Los Angeles County Paramedics Base Station, it is a certified
Comprehensive Stroke Center and STEMI (Heart Attack) Receiving Center.
All ED physicians are trained to treat children, and the department is
approved for pediatric care by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services.
Dr. Gray says people often second guess medical treatment during times
of large-scale crises, such as the pandemic.
“It can be difficult for the person at home to know if what is happening
to them is severe enough to require treatment,” he says. “In
very broad terms, the hallmark of the emergency is you are having severe
symptoms or effects to basic functions of the body such as walking, eating
and breathing, or any new or seemingly dangerous, abnormal bleeding.”
Other warning signs are difficulty with vision, speech, balance or new
pain that is severe. Intense symptoms, sudden onset and symptoms that
do not ease are all indications of a serious problem.
“It’s very difficult to come up with a lay person’s definition
of an emergency - which is why we recommend they come in so we can do
an evaluation to be sure what is happening. It’s even harder when
you’re talking about someone else’s symptoms,” he says.
Hospitalization is not the marker for a true emergency. Dr. Gray says 80
percent of ED visitors need treatment but are not hospitalized.
“We are in the business of diagnosing and treating emergencies, and
a large part of that involves reassuring people that even if they are
not hospitalized, they still need treatment,” he says.
When you need to visit the ED, don’t wait.
Call 911 or have a friend or family member drive you to the ED. At check-in,
patient symptoms are reviewed so routing to the correct area can occur.
Triage takes time, and some waiting happens while patients are screened
for signs of COVID-19.
Since early 2020, the hospital put in place safety protocols following
guidance from infectious disease specialists, the Los Angeles Department
of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.
These measures include mandatory daily screening and temperature checks
of every person who enters the facility, personal protective equipment
and extensive training for staff in infectious disease prevention and
Besides enhanced screening policies, the ED also increased safety by adjusting
its facilities to accommodate physical distancing practices, rigorous
cleaning and maintenance and isolation of COVID-19 patients.
“If you feel something dangerous is happening, please come to the
hospital. Your sense of being sick and something being wrong is a very
good indicator of you needing to be evaluated,” Dr. Gray says.