ER Wait Time: 2 minutes | If you are having a medical emergency, call 9-1-1.

(June 25, 2020–San Diego)  “We did our job too well,” says Jordan Cohen, MD, Medical Director of Emergency Services at Alvarado Hospital. Nation-wide, the call for social distancing by healthcare authorities as a means to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 was heeded and has done much to mitigate what could’ve been a much more deadly disease than what we’re seeing at this moment. People were encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, and at the initial onset of the pandemic, asked to avoid coming to the emergency rooms unless necessary. But the unintended consequence is that too many people avoid coming to the hospital at all. In the month of April, visits to the nation’s emergency rooms was down 42% compared to last year. And although Alvarado hospital experienced an uptick in ER visits in April, the overall number is still down drastically from the same time last year. “COVID anxiety is a real thing,” noted Lori Turgeon, Nursing Director of Alvarado Hospital Emergency Services. “People are scared to come into the ER because of COVID, and that’s understandable. But the simple reality is that what was an emergency before the pandemic is still an emergency now.”

“Critical health emergencies, such as strokes and heart attacks, need to be taken care of immediately,” says Dr. Cohen. “In the case of stroke, for example, there are short windows of time where specific drugs and procedures need to be administered that could spell the difference between life and death. If someone experiences symptoms of stroke, but avoids coming to the ER, that could be deadly.” All necessary steps to safeguard visitors to the emergency room at Alvarado Hospital have been taken. Visitors to the ER are first screened for symptoms of COVID-19. Those with fever and cough or shortness of breath are immediately separated and, in most cases, taken to a room immediately. At all times, those who show COVID-19 symptoms are kept segregated from the general population of patients. And everyone who comes to the ER is immediately given a mask and hand-sanitizer. “There are separate rooms and sections of the Emergency Department for respiratory patients, including two negative pressure rooms,” adds Dr. Cohen. “We are equipped to treat any COVID patients that come through our doors. And we remain ready to accept all other health emergencies as well. We are a certified Primary Stroke Center, and a STEMI Severe Heart Attack Receiving Center. I can’t emphasize enough that you shouldn’t feel the need to neglect your health from fear of catching COVID. We can take care of you.”

Robin Gomez, CEO of Alvarado Hospital, emphasizes that those same safety measures are followed throughout the hospital. “We have a separate respiratory unit in the hospital to keep COVID-19 patients away from all of our other patients. It’s possible to stay at Alvarado and not even be in the same vicinity of a COVID patient the whole time you’re here.” All Alvarado staff are equipped with proper personal protective equipment, and there is continuous training in the most up-to-date treatment practices for the disease. “We have been recognized with multiple awards for patient safety excellence for the past few years by Healthgrades, The Leapfrog Group, and we have a five-star rating from CMS/Hospital Compare,” said Gomez, “Patient safety has always been a part of our culture. And this is especially true now during this pandemic.”