One of the most common concerns that people have as a result of COVID-19 is whether or not it is still considered safe to visit the ER for other maladies unrelated to the virus.

Prior to COVID-19 being declared a public health emergency by our officials back in March of 2020, British Columbia saw as many as 6,559 visits to ERs across the province in just one day. However, just one month later, on April 6th, 2020, that number dropped to approximately 2,995 ER visits. While this ultimately shows that people were doing what they needed to be doing by staying home – and that the system, as a whole, also had more hospital bed availability in the event of a worst-case scenario where there was an increase in COVID-19 cases (which, ultimately, there was) and those needing emergency in-hospital treatment, such as in the ICU, these lower-than-usual numbers that we initially saw in the amount of hospital visits that British Columbians are making may have been an indicator that people were choosing to ignore their health and the fact that they may need medical attention.

While COVID-19 is certainly a highly contagious virus, and while many non-essential services (i.e. restaurants and shopping malls, as well as gyms, community centres, beaches and parks) were at one point closed or had strict restrictions in place to help prevent transmission of the virus, essential services (including things like banks, medical clinics pharmacies and emergency rooms) have always remained open to the general public – because, despite COVID-19, these are still services that people require on a daily basis. Yes, the idea of stepping into a medical setting, such as a hospital, where you know there are likely COVID patients being treated, is a scary thought and may even be anxiety-inducing for some; and while those are very valid fears to have, it’s also important to note that there are specific protocols in place to ensure the safety of both patients and ER staff. For example, hospitals have COVID-19 specific wards. This means that any patients exhibiting telltale symptoms of this virus are not going to be placed with patients at the ER for other medical issues. There are also PPE policies in place for patients and staff, as well as other specific policies and procedures followed for patients who do present to the ER with symptoms of COVID-19.

When it comes to visiting your family physician, many medical clinics, such as Brentwood Medical Clinic, now offer telehealth appointments for their patients. This way you are still able to consult with a physician, but it is done so virtually as opposed to you having to leave your home to go to the office. However, in-person visits are also still an option if necessary. In other words, if you need to see your doctor or visit the ER, then you should, as their doors remain open. Even if you’re unsure as to whether or not what you’re experiencing is a medical-related problem, or whether it may or may not be an emergency, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, as it could be a matter of life or death. The medical system is there for those who need it, and the benefit of seeking medical help may outweigh the risks.