Kelowna doctor says people are getting sicker by avoiding ER due to COVID-19 fear - InfoNews

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Kelowna doctor says people are getting sicker by avoiding ER due to COVID-19 fear

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May 07, 2020 - 12:06 PM

A Kelowna doctor is urging the public to visit the emergency room if they need to, whether or not it is pandemic-related.

Dr. Jeffrey Eppler, a Kelowna General Hospital emergency room doctor has recently seen an uptick in sicker patients — compared to pre-COVID-19 times — which he believes is because more people are staying at home and getting sicker before visiting the hospital.

He suspects that people are worried about getting COVID-19 in the ER, “which I think is highly unlikely because the hospital has done a really good job of creating a safe environment for patients and staff.”

“We’re careful with screening people and creating safer zones for staff and for patients,” he said.

READ MORE: 'Stay close to home' B.C. premier says about travel within province and beyond

There are areas of the hospital specifically designated for COVID-19 patients. Negative pressure rooms, which allow air to flow in but not out, have been created for the safety of the staff and public, he said.

Eppler said the other problem is the misconception that some people believe visiting the ER is a waste of time.

“Emergency room crowding is not in relation to people who don’t need to be there because if someone doesn’t need to be there, they’re not going to take a lot of time or resources,” he said.

He isn’t sure if one elderly patient survived after she was admitted to the hospital, but her condition was one that was easily treatable with antibiotics had she visited a few weeks sooner.

“These are unusual times but people are still going to get usual diseases,” he said. “I talked to other colleagues, we’re all finding that we can’t believe how sick people are. My last few emergency shifts, people just seem much much sicker now, and I think it’s because they’re waiting longer and getting sicker.”

Over the last month, Eppler said about half of the typical number of patients have been coming into the ER, but that is slowly increasing.

“People are finally not managing and finally coming in,” he said.

As of May 6, there are four patients in the hospital with COVID-19 and zero in the Intensive Care Unit in the Interior Health region, according to B.C.'s COVID-19 dashboard.

The B.C. government announced today, May 7, what it describes as an "ambitious plan" to reschedule thousands of cancelled surgeries and increase capacity in the health-care system. The government estimates it will take 17 to 24 months to clear a backlog of 30,000 patients whose surgeries have been cancelled or weren't scheduled because COVID-19 health restrictions.

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