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Emergency Room Hesitancy due to COVID-19: Where do things stand now?

“There is small increase in the COVID infection rate in the state but it’s nothing where it was in the spring.. because we’re doing all the right things."

You may have seen the public service announcements, commercials and billboards along our highways; hospitals trying to get the message across that they are open, safe and ready to help those we need it. This ongoing effort continues are some parents may still feel extra uneasy about taking their children to the emergency room. With many children back in school, at least in some capacity, and the colder months approaching, we wanted to get an update on this issue.

When the COVID 19 pandemic first hit Connecticut, perhaps ironically, pediatric emergency rooms saw patient volumes drop.

Doctor John Brancato, Associate Director of Emergency Medicine at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center explains that because of the nature of this virus and the infection, children are somewhat less commonly infected and certainly less seriously infected, which caused a dramatic drop in patient volume in the spring. So where do things stand now?

“As school has started our volume has continued to slowly climb, ” says Brancato

“There is small increase in the COVID infection rate in the state but it’s nothing where it was in the spring.. because we’re doing all the right things.. by and large”

Dr. Brancato says that while total patient volume is closer to normal range now, low acuity volume is still down in the emergency room. That includes issues like rashes, stomach aches, ear infections. He urges parents not to hesitate about getting their children medical attention, even with these less severe matters, as a delay can make the problem worse.

“During the COVID period some of this emergency department hesitancy lead some people to be so afraid of coming into the emergency department that their children waited longer, long enough for their evaluations that they ended up a little bit sicker than we would have otherwise expected” says Brancato.

He also wants to put to rest a concern some parents may have about whether testing for COVID 19 can delay medical care for children. Something he’s quick to shut down.

“It’s very important that we be clear that with parents that there is never a delay in appropriate care because of the lack of knowledge of a COVID result. We know that any patient could have it, we never want to be in a position and we ARE NOT in a position to ever withhold appropriate care for that concern” says Brancato.

Dr. Brancato says with current safety measures in place, two parents or caregivers are allowed into the emergency room department with a patient, however, only one parent is allowed on the in-patient floor if the patient needs to be admitted. Visitors are kept to a minimum.

He continues to stress that parents and caregivers can and should feel comfortable brining their children to the emergency room, if they need should arise.

“I want as much as I can to reassure parents that if their child needs attention, medical attention, they can feel comfortable bringing them in. We’ve done multiple things to keep the children, their families, our staff all safe” says Brancato.