LewisGale Medical Center concerned over drop in ER patients during the pandemic

30% drop in daily number of emergency services patients from before the pandemic to now

In most circumstances, a slow emergency room would be considered a good thing — but LewisGale Medical Center’s director of emergency services is concerned.

Michael Henson, emergency services director at LewisGale Medical Center, said that when comparing the daily number of patients going to the ER before the pandemic to now, the hospital has seen a 30% drop.

Henson understands people are hesitant but said the hospital is working hard to alleviate those fears and make sure everyone is safe. COVID -19 patients are separated from the rest of the patients, screenings are done at entrances, staff members wear masks and face shields and patients are only allowed one visitor.

“Anytime we have a COVID patient we find is positive we put the room down, we clean the room very thoroughly. That happens in the radiology suites as well as when someone goes to have an x-ray, so all those precautions are being taken,” said Henson.

Henson warned if you’re having chest pains, dizziness, stroke symptoms or any other serious symptoms or emergencies to not delay a trip to the hospital. He even suggested not putting off preventive care like cancer screenings.

“Same preventable measures we’ve taken here, the precautionary measures they’re taking in the hospital, are the same for all the outpatient services as well so it’s very safe to still do those things (preventive care). That’s very important because you don’t want to put that stuff off and have something snowball into something more major,” said Henson.

Henson did mention more people were going to the LewisGale free-standing emergency room near Tanglewood than the hospital in Salem. He believes it’s because many people don’t look at that location as a full-on hospital.

LewisGale Medical Center isn’t the only local hospital that saw a decline.

Centra Health told 10 News its emergency department saw a significant decline from March 2020 to around mid-May. Managing director of emergency services Robbie Price said in a statement, “Since that time we have had a gradual increase in our volumes, however, we finished the year about ~20% below our projected volumes.”

Price said that a gradual increase has continued into 2021 and is similar to what emergency departments are seeing across the country.


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