St. Mary’s encourages people to seek ER care when needed

The emergency room at St. Mary’s Hospital and Medical Center in Grand Junction has implemented protocols designed to keep patients safe during the coronavirus outbreak as well as encourage them to seek emergency care when it’s needed.

The efforts include separate waiting and exam rooms as well as separate entrances for patients with respiratory problems and those with other emergencies.

“We are seeing patients in the emergency room that are worried to be here, including parents with infants that have high fevers. They visibly relax once we show them that our respiratory patients have a completely separate triage process,” said Dr. William Hilty, emergency department medical director​.

Kelly Arnold, stroke coordinator at St. Mary’s, said a drop in stroke patients at the emergency room is worrisome. “We know that the rate of stroke has not slowed, so the conclusion is that these patients are not getting the treatment they need. In the case of a stroke, putting off emergency care can lead to life-altering consequences.”

Hilty said patients receive a high level of care in a safe environment. “​If people are avoiding hospitals out of fear, it could have long-lasting public health outcomes. We are here to care for them. They are safe with us.”

Arnold said people should follow the FAST acronym if they think they or a loved one might be experiencing a stroke. For those who experience facial weakness, arm weakness or speech that’s impaired or slurred, it’s time to take action. “When it comes to a stroke, time is of the essence. There is a very narrow window to administer emergency medical care. Act fast. Call 911 and get here quickly.”

Hilty said it’s just as important that people who suffer heart attacks, traumatic injuries and other medical emergencies, call 911 or get to the emergency room as quickly as possible.