The co-director of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s emergency room said Thursday that the hospital has seen a large drop in ER patients during the coronavirus pandemic compared with the same period last year, and he urged people not to be afraid to seek medical care if they need it.
Dr. Sam Torbati said he sees patients every day who have delayed coming into the ER because they are worried they might be exposed to COVID-19.
“They tell me about something that’s been brewing,” Torbati said. “They say, `I was afraid (to seek medical help).”’
Emergency room doctors’ ability to help patients is “reduced” and the outcome for patients can be worse if they wait a long time to seek emergency medical care, he said.
“We’re available. We have a lot of capacity. We don’t want them to have fear,” Torbati said, noting that patients who are suspected of having symptoms consistent with coronavirus are taken to special pods in closed rooms.
Thirty percent fewer patients were treated in the hospital’s emergency room between March 1 and April 15 than the same period last year, according to the emergency room physician. Some of the reduction is expected — and welcomed — because of a lower number of cases of major trauma, including car accidents, shootings and stabbings, but there have also been drops in other categories, as well, he said.
Torbati said he is fearful that there could be a spike in deaths in which the root cause is not coronavirus, noting doctors are concerned that people who are having serious health issues — including those leading to heart attacks and strokes — may be opting against immediately seeking emergency medical treatment.
“Hospitals like Cedars-Sinai have processes in place to ensure people’s safety,” said Torbati, who is the co-director of the hospital’s Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department. “The fear of picking up COVID-19 in a hospital, I understand it … (but) emergencies are things where time makes a difference.”
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