If you had severe chest pain, signs of a stroke (such as weakness on one side of your body or difficulty talking) or other worrisome symptoms, would you go to the hospital? Many people who wouldn’t have hesitated before the coronavirus outbreak are waiting now. Even when waiting can be life threatening.
“We've seen some patients who come to the hospital three or four days after noticing symptoms of a stroke,” said Shreyas Mallur, MD, associate chief medical officer at El Camino Health’s hospitals. "When it comes to heart attacks and strokes, getting care right away is critical — when the heart or brain is deprived of oxygen, seconds matter.”
He also noticed that people with other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, who might have come in right away before the pandemic are delaying going to the emergency room.
“Waiting to get care can allow conditions to get worse — what if that abdominal pain turns out to be appendicitis? Delaying care can lead to complications and require a longer hospital stay. It’s important to get care right away.”
Keeping Patients Safe
El Camino Health has taken numerous precautions to keep patients and staff safe, including guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), California and Santa Clara County.
The hospital has testing available for all staff. Also, employees must wear a mask in clinical areas at all times — even if they're not providing care to patients. Before staff and doctors begin their shift, they’re screened for COVID-19 symptoms, and their temperature is taken. Social distancing is mandatory throughout the facilities.
In the emergency room, all patients are seen by a triage nurse — anyone who comes in with respiratory symptoms is isolated from other patients. In the hospital, there are dedicated isolation areas where we treat patients with COVID-19. These designated isolation rooms have contained air circulation that prevents the virus from spreading to hospital corridors. All patients who come in for procedures are tested for the virus — only those who test negative for the virus move forward with procedures.
Also, the hospital has restricted visitors to keep everyone safe. Patients can visit with their families using video chat.
“Other diseases don’t stop because of COVID, and we’re here to care for our patients,” said Dr. Mallur. “We’re working with our infection prevention department and going above and beyond to keep people safe in al El Camino Health facilities. We make sure people get the care they need — safely — when they need it.”
Take Care of Your Mental Health
Just like medical problems, mental health concerns can get worse if you don’t address them and get some support. There’s only so much you can do to control what’s happening during the pandemic, but you can take care of yourself and your health.
"There's been a huge increase in alcohol and gun sales — people feel unsettled," said Michael Fitzgerald, MSN, APRN, a clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry and executive director of the Scrivner Center for Mental Health & Addiction Services at El Camino Health. “People can experience anxiety to the point that they aren’t sleeping or eating well. It’s affecting their relationships and the ability to make decisions. Or, it may be impacting their health if they’re not taking care of themselves as they typically might. These can have long-term consequences.”
“This may be a time of social distancing and masks, but we don’t need to do emotional distancing,” he said. “We want people to seek help before they’re in situations that can become dangerous — when they can be at risk for hurting themselves or someone else or making decisions that have harmful consequences to their health or their future.”
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, and it’s affecting your ability to function, don’t ignore it. Think about what you can do to help this — turn off the TV and stop reading the news, reconnect with your friends on a video chat, and think about creative ways to stay in touch with others. If you need help, reach out.
“Seeking help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather of strength — it allows you to take back control,” Michael said. “You gain control by getting the skills to manage your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. You can get help without risking your health.”
Find information about dealing with COVID-related stress, anxiety and isolation, and local resources at NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness). You can also call the Scrivner Center for Mental Health & Addiction Services resource navigator to get more information about services at El Camino Health and in the community by calling 650-940-7041. Don’t delay getting help — professionals are ready to provide safe, effective care and support.
If you need medical care or mental health services, El Camino Health is ready to provide the highest quality care in the safest way possible.