The Emergency Department is Safe
When you need to visit the ED, don't wait.
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 protocols.
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.