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Three reasons you should still go to the ER during COVID-19

Throughout the pandemic, Geisinger’s emergency rooms, including at Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital, have remained open to care for our communities. Sometimes, no matter how careful we are, emergencies happen. And that means you need to make a trip to the ER — even during a pandemic.

From concerns about burdening emergency room staff to worries about catching the virus, many people have concerns about going to the Emergency Department right now. But if you have a true health emergency, not getting immediate care can negatively impact your health over the long term.

We want you to feel safe and confident should you ever need us for emergency care. So, here are three reasons not to delay a needed trip to the emergency room — and how we’re keeping our ERs safe for everyone.

1. Your health shouldn’t wait

Making a necessary visit to the emergency room can protect your long-term health. If you’re experiencing a medical emergency, such as a stroke or heart attack, it’s important to act fast to get a swift diagnosis and treatment.

Our ERs are open 24/7, and our teams are ready when you need us. You should go to the emergency room for:

• Animal bites

• Broken bones

• Chest pain

• Difficulty breathing

• High, uncontrolled fever

• Loss of consciousness

• Loss of or blurred vision

• Major head injuries

• Severe bleeding/trauma

• Severe burns

• Sharp abdominal pain

• Stroke

If you are having a medical emergency, call 911.

2. We’re taking extra steps to keep the ER safe for you

From rearranged waiting and exam rooms to masked and gloved care teams, here are some of the precautions we’re taking to keep you protected in our ERs and hospitals:

• Isolating those with COVID-19 or related symptoms in separate, designated areas and units.

• Requiring everyone to wear a mask. Don’t have one? We’ve got one for you.

• Limiting the number of people in our waiting rooms and expanding the space between chairs.

• Arranging our exam rooms to reduce unnecessary contact with high-touch surfaces.

• Deep cleaning our care sites between patients and multiple times throughout the day.

• Limiting the number of visitors in our hospitals and clinics.

• Screening every person when they come in — patients, visitors and employees — including taking temperatures with a no-touch thermometer. By screening all our employees for COVID-19, no matter where they work, we’re taking significant precautions to keep our staff and patients safe.

3. We’re providing care for non-emergencies through telemedicine

While there’s no substitute for emergency care, there are situations when a virtual visit may be all you need. Telemedicine appointments provide care through a video or phone call instead of requiring an in-person visit to our clinics or hospitals. This means fewer patients and visitors in our hospitals — and our emergency rooms.

Telemedicine appointments are appropriate for non-urgent treatment, including:

• Cold

• Flu

• Allergy

• Rash

• Sinus infection

• Urinary tract infection (UTI)

Knowing when and how to seek care at the emergency room is a key part of taking charge of your health. Because, at the end of the day, you should seek care.

Jason Schauer, M.D., is an emergency medicine physician and medical director of emergency services at Geisinger Jersey Shore Hospital.

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