RVH sees drop in emergency department visits

Chief of emergency department: ED is a safe place to be

Hospital officials in Barrie continue to urge people not to shy away from the emergency department (ED) if they need care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Visits to the ED, both walk-ins and by ambulance, are down over the last month.

The ED at RVH normally gets about 226 visits a day. During the COVID-19 crisis, numbers have stayed well below 200, in the 130 to 140 range, and there was one day when the patient total was just 100. On Monday, the ED was busier with 177 visits.

“People have a fear of going to the emergency department and exposing themselves to COVID-19,” said Dr. Darren Usher, Chief of the Emergency Department at RVH. “I have even heard stories that some people thought they wouldn’t be allowed to come to the emergency department or that they would be turned away.”

Usher said the ED can 100 per cent deal with any emergency.

“It’s a safe place to come in. There are extra precautions to prevent exposure.”

There are screeners at the entrance to the ED and anyone who presents with a respiratory illness is isolated. Usher doesn’t want people to let COVID-19 alter their judgement and avoid coming to the hospital. He is afraid that is already happening.

“I am sure we are seeing secondary harm. People who have medical conditions that delayed going to the emergency department.”

He cites an example of someone who put off going to the ED for a week despite chest pain.

In an interesting twist, many of the people who are coming to the ED are much sicker. In fact, RVH is admitting about the same number of people to the hospital that they did pre-pandemic, which is about 22 patients a day.

RVH will continue to drive the message home on its website and its social media channels that the ED is open, it’s a safe place to be and you will be looked after.