Urgent Health Care Needs Should Be Prioritized Even During A Pandemic

April 21, 2020 –Across America, people worry about being exposed to the coronavirus. Hospitals and doctors, straining to cope with the outbreak, have postponed elective surgeries and some routine procedures. Unfortunately, accidents and other health concerns will still happen, and usually at the worst times. What should you do if you have an emergency or urgent medical issue during these uncertain times?

“We’re all so focused on coronavirus right now that we may dismiss our other health care needs,” says Michael D. Scherneck, president and CEO, Southeast Georgia Health System. “I want to assure our communities that Southeast Georgia Health System has the capacity, resources and medical staff to take care of their pressing health concerns. We are taking extraordinary measures to protect the health and safety of our patients and team members at our hospital campuses and Immediate Care Centers.”

When to seek urgent or emergency care

Scherneck says people should still seek medical care for certain conditions, even during a pandemic. “Your health should always be a priority. Getting the right care at the right time can make the difference between independence or long-term disability, longevity or death. If you’re experiencing symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, difficulty breathing, a severe injury—basically anything that threatens your life or limb—don’t hesitate to call 9-1-1 or go to the Emergency Care Center.”

If your condition isn’t life-threatening but needs prompt attention, Scherneck recommends going to one of the Health System’s three Immediate Care Centers. According to Adam Brown, director, Physician Practices, Southeast Georgia Physician Associates (SGPA), “Our Immediate Care Center team members are trained to treat urgent, non-life threatening illnesses and injuries. They can also diagnose problems and expedite a transfer to the Health System’s Emergency Care Center, if necessary.”

The Immediate Care Centers treat colds, the flu, fevers, sore throats, ear aches, upset stomachs, nausea or vomiting, UTIs, allergies, rashes and skin infections. They also treat strains, sprains, minor bumps, cuts and burns and minor insect or dog bites.

Although the Immediate Care Centers take walk-ins, it’s still preferable to call ahead if you can. “Calling ahead will allow us to prepare for your arrival,” says Brown. “You can describe your symptoms, and we can provide you with directions based on your health care need.”

Many of the SGPA providers also now offer telehealth appointments for non-urgent conditions. Similar to Skype or FaceTime, a telemedicine video call allows health care providers to see and speak to a patient outside of the doctor’s office. To participate, a patient must have a good WiFi signal and access to a computer, smartphone or tablet with a camera and microphone.

“While not all medical specialties are able to use telemedicine, many routine sick, follow-up and well visits can be conducted this way. We are increasing our telemedicine capabilities and using this technology as much as possible during this pandemic. Our telehealth system is invaluable to help us contain the spread of coronavirus and protect our community,” Brown explains. He recommends contacting your health care provider to find out if your medical or health issue can be addressed with a telemedicine video call.

Protocols to protect patients and staff

The Health System is diligently working to halt the spread of COVID-19. Hospital visitation is limited, with rare exceptions, and all approved visitors and team members are screened for COVID-19 symptoms, which include fever, cough and shortness of breath.

Medical and housekeeping staff have also increased efforts to uphold the facilities’ stringent cleaning and disinfecting measures.

In addition, health care providers working at both hospitals wear masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection when treating patients confirmed or suspected of having coronavirus. “Our team members follow strict protocols for putting on and removing their protective equipment,” says Steven F. Mosher, M.D., a board-certified internal medicine physician specializing in infectious disease and member of the Southeast Georgia Health System medical staff. Any patient diagnosed with coronavirus is assigned to a special “negative pressure” room. “These patient isolation rooms contain the virus inside the room. When the door opens, air can come inside, but cannot leave,” Mosher explains.

Coronavirus Screening Hotline

Individuals concerned they may be experiencing coronavirus symptoms can call the Health System’s free COVID-19 Screening Hotline at 912-466-7222. The hotline is staffed with Health System nurses and health care professionals and will offer immediate access to SGPA providers, if needed. Patients who meet the criteria for an in-person coronavirus screening are given an appointment and instructions for a virtual or in-person physical exam and, if warranted, instructions for testing. The hotline is available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 12-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

“The key thing to understand is that we are dedicated to keeping our team members and community safe. We’ve been here for you during hurricanes and other difficult events, and we’re here for you now,” says Scherneck.

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