Greater Victoria emergency room visits down amidst pandemic

Greater Victoria emergency room visits down amidst pandemic
WatchThrough the first four months of the year, Greater Victoria Hospitals have seen a near 40% drop off in emergency room visits, and some of those skipped visits have been costly.

In British Columbia, the measures put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19 have helped avoid disaster for the healthcare system.

The phrase “stay home” has been plastered everywhere, but it appears that mantra may have actually put some people’s health at risk.

Through the first four months of 2020, emergency room visits have dropped off at Greater Victoria Hospitals.  Victoria General, Royal Jubilee and Saanich Peninsula Hospitals have seen anywhere from a 35 to 40 per cent drop off in ER visits in comparison to this time last year.

“We’re concerned about the people that are quite unwell waiting too long to come in and we have seen harm from that,” said Dr. Omar Ahmad, the department head for Emergency Medicine and Critical Care at Island Health.

Ahmad says people are avoiding emergency rooms for different reasons but urges those with medical emergencies to come in before it’s too late.

“Some people worried about potentially contracting COVID if they come to the emergency department. Many folks just commenting that they don’t want to overburden our system. We are open for business and if you do have an emergency or if you’re concerned about your health, we will absolutely see you,” said Ahmad.

BC’s health care system has prepared for the worst, but that has yet to come. However, Ahmad knows just how bad the situation can get.

His brother is an ER Doctor in New York, the world’s epicentre of the pandemic with just under 335,000 confirmed cases. Vancouver Island is on the other side of the spectrum with 125 cases, but as restrictions are set to loosen, and people begin to relax, anxiety over what could happen remains for hospitals.

“We’re a little bit worried that people are maybe jumping on the bandwagon a bit too soon and if we do that in droves, we’ll potentially have a secondary wave that we’re trying to avoid at all costs,” said Ahmad.

Ben NesbitBen Nesbit

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