Q: I keep hearing that the hospitals are filling up and it is really worrying me. What if I get sick and need care, will the hospital be safe for me?
A: Fear of needing hospital care while we know the hospitals are being inundated with patients, both COVID and non COVID related, is very understandable. Many people share this feeling and even though they may be perfectly healthy right now, this fear leaves an uneasy feeling that effects our daily life.
However, it is important to understand the hospitals are taking every possible precaution to keep you safe while you are there. All staff and patients must wear masks at all times. There is now an added screening process before entry for any COVID-19 symptoms. Anyone who may have COVID-19 is taken to a separate waiting area. The infection control procedures have been tightened and are most likely safer than they have ever been.
You can take steps as well to avoid contracting any virus by sanitizing your hands often, remaining as distanced from others as possible, and wearing your mask properly. Know ahead of time that friends or family will not be able to accompany you. This is a new protocol to reduce the number of people in the hospital and thus reduce the possibility of transmissions. Be sure to have your cell phone and charger with you so that you can stay in touch with them easily during your stay.
Being prepared often helps to ease anxiety. It is both possible and expected that at some time this winter you will feel ill. Be prepared in your home with the supplies you will need so that you will not have to go to the store if sick. Make sure you have enough medicine, pantry staples including soups and crackers, and anything you may need if you become ill.
Know your doctor’s office after hours procedures. Most likely they have an on-call doctor 24/7 to answer urgent questions and guide you if sick. Familiarize yourself with the nearest urgent cares, their hours, and what they can and cannot treat. Urgent cares are a great option to avoid the emergency room. However, if necessary, our emergency rooms are here to treat you. Do not avoid them if a higher level of care and treatment is needed.
Certain symptoms indicate that a hospital is the best place to receive the care you need. If you have symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, fainting, bleeding you cannot control, or any head or spine injury seek immediate medical care. This list is not exhaustive, use your judgement and consult your doctor if unsure.
If you already have COVID-19, monitor your symptoms and seek medical care if you have trouble breathing, persistent chest pain, are unable to stay awake, or have blue lips or face, indicating you are not getting enough oxygen.
Delaying medical care in a hospital could result in worse health outcomes. Daren W. Lee, President and CEO, St. John’s Pleasant Valley Hospital and St. John’s Regional Medical Center, explained “While we may be growing tired of the disruption coronavirus has on our daily lives, the COVID-19 pandemic is not behind us. We understand that this is a difficult and confusing time for many, but the health and safety of our local residents and staff are our top priorities. Please don’t delay care; it can make all the difference in your health outcomes.”
It is helpful to know all your care options, but there are times when hospital level care is needed and staying away could cause your health to deteriorate in irreversible ways.
Being prepared often helps to ease anxiety. Think through what you will do if you have a medical emergency or become ill so that you will know your care options, and how to respond.
Martha Shapiro can be reached at Senior Concerns at 805-497-0189 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.