B.C. ER doctor concerned patients not seeking medical help due to coronavirus pandemic

A Vancouver emergency room doctor is expressing concern that some people with serious and life-threatening health issues may not be seeking the help they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Daniel Kalla, the head of the emergency department for St. Paul’s and Mount Saint Joseph Hospital, says the hospital has had a drop in visits since the COVID-19 outbreak began.

He said most hospitals are at around 55 per cent capacity and he has never seen so many empty beds.

“In the last three or four weeks, in particular, volume is down 40 to 50 per cent,” Kalla told Global News Tuesday.

“Our big concern is that people with potentially critical conditions and time-critical conditions are staying at home and not reporting into emergency departments or calling 811.”

Kalla wants everyone to know that if they have to go to the emergency room, please do so.

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“Our emergency rooms are safe now,” he said. “We have meticulous infection control and you’re at no higher risk coming to the emergency department than you are going to a supermarket or drugstore.

“We have a lot of capacity in the emergency department to manage non-COVID-related issues and people shouldn’t neglect their health and other concerns by avoiding us.”

Kalla said right now there are only seven patients with COVID-19 at St. Paul’s and none at Mount Saint Joesph. They are kept in a separate area of the hospital and not in the waiting room when they come to the emergency department.

“I think people think hospitals are bursting at the seams because of what they’ve seen on the news in places like Italy and New York and we haven’t had that situation in B.C.,” Kalla said. “We’ve been really lucky.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in 20 years in the province.”

Kalla said anyone who thinks they might need medical attention, especially those with chronic underlying conditions, should not hesitate to seek medical care.

Urgent care centres are also open for business and anyone can call 811 for help and guidance at any time.

Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said it is encouraging to see emergency room visits up from April 6 and hopefully means people are seeking out care when they need it.


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