Emergency Departments Welcome Patients With Enhanced Safety Procedures
Elizabeth Datner, MD, is worried about the patients she’s not seeing.
Dr. Datner, Chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Einstein Healthcare Network, wants the communities that depend on Einstein to know that the Emergency Department is open, safe and ready to take care of them.
Most importantly she wants everyone to know that it’s safe to come in – and that it’s not safe to delay treatment for some serious medical conditions and injuries.
Cases of COVID-19 at Einstein’s three network hospitals have been declining since April. And Dr. Datner notes that the department has taken multiple steps to keep potential COVID patients separated from others, and to keep all patients and staff members safe.
It’s especially important to seek care if you’re having possible symptoms of a heart attack, stroke, serious injury, infection or a crisis in a chronic (long-term) condition such as diabetes, asthma or lung disease, Dr. Datner says. Find out some of the symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.
“The worst thing is to see someone who we could have treated and prevented a bad outcome if they had come in just a little bit earlier,” Dr. Datner says. “That’s heartbreaking.”
Dr. Datner says people may not realize how hard Einstein has worked to keep both staff members and patients as safe as possible.
“Einstein is here for you, just as we’ve always been,” says Datner.
“What I want to say is, be cautious, continue to keep six feet of distance, wear a mask or face covering, wash your hands frequently and come in to be seen when you need us,” she says. “Following these recommendations when you come in will protect you and those around you. And we will make sure that we are protecting you as well.”
Here are some of the steps the Emergency Department has taken. Except as noted, they apply to all three Einstein hospitals: Philadelphia, Montgomery and Elkins Park.
When You Enter
When you come in, you’ll be greeted by a security officer. Everyone must wear a mask or face covering– both staff and patients. You’ll be given a mask if you don’t have one.
Visitors are not allowed at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery, except for a parent or guardian accompanying a minor child. Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia and Einstein Medical Center Elkins Park generally allow one visitor over age 18 if requested by a patient.
All visitors must wear masks and work with the clinical staff to follow recommendations for social distancing.
Although the overall level of COVID-19 in the community is low, to be cautious the ER screens everyone for symptoms of the disease and potential contacts with those infected, Dr. Datner says. So when you come to the ED, a staff member will take your temperature, and you’ll be asked to answer questions about symptoms and potential exposures.
While You’re Waiting
“Generally, we haven’t had patients waiting long,” Dr. Datner says. “We use a process called ‘immediate bedding.’ Patients may also get an initial evaluation by a doctor remotely (on a computer),” Dr. Datner says.
Here’s how the process works.
- If there’s a bed available, you’ll be taken back to a room right away.
- If you have to wait, signs will tell you where to sit to maintain social distancing from other people.
- If an ER doctor can’t see you right away, you’ll talk to a doctor using telehealth to find out more about what’s wrong. The telehealth doctor can order any tests needed before a physician sees you in person.
Cleaning procedures for the waiting rooms also have been enhanced, says Stephen Chapman, Associate Vice President for Emergency and Trauma Services of the Einstein Healthcare Network. “At designated times during the day, Environmental Services staff will wipe down the surfaces of the waiting room.”
Separation of Possible COVID-19 Patients
People coming in by ambulance who are sick with possible COVID-19 symptoms are evaluated quickly before entering the ED.
“Before they fully enter the ED, we can evaluate them, and we can put a mask on them if they don’t have one already,” Dr. Datner says.
Both ambulance and walk-in patients with potential COVID symptoms will be separated and put into a different area than other patients. This area has enhanced ventilation, Dr. Datner says, and only essential staff are allowed. They wear full protective equipment.
Patients who may need certain treatments that release droplets into the air can go into a room with negative pressure to keep the virus from escaping, she says. At Einstein Philadelphia, one of these rooms can be entered directly from outside.
“All of this keeps the main ED areas clean,” Dr. Datner says.
What Comes Next
Once a doctor has seen you, you may receive treatment and go home. If you stay for observation or get admitted, you’ll receive a COVID-19 test, whether you have symptoms of COVID or not. These tests are done in the hospital lab, and results typically come back in less than 12hours.
“You may be placed in a room with another patient that’s appropriate based on whether or not you’re likely to have COVID,” Dr. Datner says.
When you leave the ER, the room and equipment will be cleaned. “Every room, every stretcher is cleaned between patients,” Chapman says. “That is a standard.”