MINT HILL, NC – Kristin Steinhaus, Emergency Department Manager at Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center, explains that the Emergency Department is safe, and encourages people not to ignore serious or life-threatening symptoms.
Fear of COVID-19 is no reason to avoid the ED. “It is safe to come to the emergency department,” says Steinhaus. “From the front door all the way until you see the physician and complete your treatment, we take all precautions necessary to ensure safe care for every patient.”
Many restrictions and precautions put in place at all Novant facilities to protect health care workers and limit the spread of the virus remained in place in the Emergency Department as they resumed nonessential procedures last week. “In the Emergency Department, we’re continuing many visitor restrictions so most of our patients do not have a visitor present with them during ther ED visit except for life extenuating circumstances,” says Steinhaus. “We also have a lot of education and planning that remains in place to treat our COVID patient population as well as our regular community population.”
COVID-19 may be at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now, but the Emergency Department has to juggle potential COVID-19 cases in addition to their normal, expected flow of patients. “The last seven weeks have been a lot of preparation, planning, and education for the clinical team to make sure we could care for the patients who come to the Emergency Department,” says Steinhaus. “The normal Emergency Department visits that we expect like chest pains or heart attack, but we also had to improve our education and our knowledge around the COVID-19 virus so that everybody could safely take care of those patients as well.”
After nearly seven weeks of sheltering in place, North Carolina moved into Phase 1 of Governor Cooper’s reopening plan on May 8. Although residents are still officially advised to stay home, they are permitted to travel to any business that is open for commercial activity. As businesses continue to open and more people are leaving their homes, it’s possible we will see a second wave of COVID-19 cases.
“We are quite prepared to see a potential spike in COVID-19 cases,” assures Steinhaus. “We’ve done a lot of preparation with our supply departments to make sure we have all necessary allocated equipment to safely protect our health care workers and protect the community from the virus spreading.”
On May 4, Novant facilities statewide resumed nonessential surgeries, procedures and appointments. Terms like “non-time sensitive,” “non-emergent” and “nonessential” can be confusing to people who don’t work in the medical field. Steinhaus helps us understand what those terms mean from an ED-perspective.
“Something that is essential would be if you’re at home and you have sudden severe abdominal pain and you came to the hospital and it was determined you needed your appendix removed,” says Steinhaus. “That would be an essential service that we would make sure happened in real time. Something nonessential would be if you were at home and you were having a different type of abdominal pain, and they were just going to do some screenings like a colonoscopy. We could hold off and wait on that for now, and that would be nonessential.”
Although we’ve begun a gradual return to a “new normal” here in NC, COVID-19 hasn’t disappeared. If you’re experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, you may need to go to the ED, but you might also be able to start with a virtual visit. It all depends on the severity of your symptoms.
“If you feel like you might have COVID-19 – if you have a symptom like shortness of breath or high fever, if your shortness of breath is allowing you to not be able to walk and talk like normal – you should come straight to the Emergency Department,” says Steinhaus. “If you’re really not certain but you’re not feeling that bad and you are able to resume your normal life functions, you may seek a virtual visit first.”
Steinhaus’ message is clear: if you need immediate medical attention, don’t delay. Novant Health Mint Hill Medical Center’s Emergency Department is safe and ready to help.