Our Emergency Departments are safe to visit – here’s what you need to know

By Natalie Leung

(June 25, 2020) – Medical emergencies, such as stroke, happen every day. But some people who need urgent care may be staying away from Emergency Departments (EDs) due to fears of contracting COVID-19.

You can see it in the numbers at Unity Health Toronto. Both of the ED’s at St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Centre saw dips in the early days of the pandemic. Since then, more people have been visiting the ED, and it’s a trend staff and physicians there hope will continue.

We chatted with Donna Didimos, patient care manager of St. Joseph’s Health Centre’s ED, to see why those fears are unnecessary and why it’s important to seek care when you need it.

Is it safe to visit the ED?

Our ED has processes and precautions in place to keep patients, staff and physicians safe. When patients first arrive at the ED, someone will greet them at the door to make sure they are at the correct location and confirm that they are looking to visit the ED.

Patients will then go through isolation screening and be triaged so that they are assessed in the most appropriate area. Persons under investigation and non-COVID patients are separated into different zones to minimize risk.

All patients will be provided a mask to wear throughout their stay at our hospital. Our staff and physicians will also be wearing proper personal protective equipment (PPE).

Throughout our spaces, we have hand hygiene stations and clear visual markers that encourage physical distancing.

What happens when people wait too long to go to the ED?

I’m concerned when we don’t see patients coming to our ED. The fact is, if we don’t see patients for regular ailments, it means many of them aren’t seeking care. This can potentially lead to further health issues and complications down the road. Our ED is safe, but delaying your visit isn’t.

What would you say to someone who is afraid of being an unnecessary burden on the health system?

Our hospital resources are for everyone. If you are feeling unwell and need urgent care, our ED is here for you.

Is there anything else you would like people to know?

We will never ask anyone to stay away from our ED. If you are experiencing chest pain, notice any signs of stroke or need any medical or mental health attention, please come see us. That’s what we are here for. If you’re really unsure if you need to go to your nearest ED, Telehealth Ontario is a resource that may help guide you.