El Paso hospitals reporting ‘dramatic’ drop in E.R. visits amid COVID-19 pandemic


While we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, local health officials are reminding you to not ignore any signs or symptoms that could require emergency care.

by: Tatiana Favela

Posted: May 19, 2020 / 06:08 PM MDT
/ Updated: May 19, 2020 / 06:11 PM MDT

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — While we are still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, local health officials are reminding you to not ignore any signs or symptoms that could require emergency care.

Staff at local emergency rooms say they have seen a decrease in the number of patients.

Officials with University Medical Center of El Paso said when the pandemic first began, their E.R. visits were rising. Now, they’re seeing a dramatic drop in patients which is concerning to hospitals.

“It’s perfectly safe to go to the emergency room if you are in need of care. I think initially people were being told not to go to the emergency room if you don’t need care, in other words people were just showing up because they were curious about whether or not they had it and wanted to get tested,” Ryan Mielke, Spokesperson for UMC told KTSM.

UMC officials said they’re worried people may not be getting necessary medical attention for fear of contracting coronavirus at hospitals, but assure their staff are taking the necessary precautions.

“People are screened at the door, nobody with COVID is allowed in, nobody with exceeding temperatures is allowed in, it’s actually very safe. You can’t say the same when you’re out and about town,” Mielke said.

Currently, UMC, the Hospitals of Providence, and Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare hospitals say they are not at full capacity. However if needed, are prepared to handle a potential surge of patients. All reported a decrease in E.R. patients.

Ultimately, all these hospitals stress the importance of not delaying medical attention for emergencies or illnesses, adding it could lead to life threatening situations.

“It is so important, if you’re having a pain in your side or an undiagnosed headache that just came out of the blue, those are things that you may be in a very serious situation and if you put it off, it could cost you immeasurably… if not your life,” Mielke added.​

Below are the full statements provided by the Hospitals of Providence and Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare on the status of capacity, along with drop in E.R. visits.

The Hospitals of Providence:
“As always, our team of trained professionals remain ready to serve and we have the necessary resources available to care for our patients.  We have been preparing and continue to prepare for a potential surge of critical patients.  On a daily basis, we collaboratively consult with other hospital systems, the public health department and our elected leaders to plan accordingly.  We are monitoring our hospital census closely and will implement our surge plans as the need arises.

On background:
·        Our hospitals are not at capacity.
•         Our ERs have seen a decrease in patients.
          o   Our ERs have protocols in place to safely care for patients.
          o   All patients and visitors upon entry into the ER are screened prior to entry.
          o   Medical providers remind the community to not delay seeking care in emergency situations.  Delaying care of some emergencies and illnesses can lead to debilitating and life threatening situations.”

Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare:
“Yesterday, Gov. Abbott announced the reopening of much of Texas, except for El Paso and the Panhandle due to concerns over hospital capacity. Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare hospitals are prepared to respond to the needs of our community.  

Both Las Palmas Del Sol Healthcare hospitals have a surge plan specific to that facility, and we continue to review and revise those plans based on what is happening within our community, as well as what we’re seeing happening in communities that have already seen large COVID-19 outbreaks. Our surge plans include the utilization of all available patient care space within our hospitals and in other settings across our healthcare systems. This includes the conversion and/or retrofitting of certain functions in the available space to accommodate this patient population. In addition to physical space, the plans also address the equipment that will be needed, as well as the appropriate redeployment of our staff to ensure we are maximizing the use of our greatest resource, which is our people. 

Since the onset of the coronavirus, however, we have seen a significant drop in emergency department (ED) visits, including visits for heart- and stroke-related care, and those volumes remain down significantly. This decrease indicates that people have been making the decision to forgo potentially life-saving care, and we urge patients not to do this. 

Our hospitals stand prepared and ready to provide patients with the care they need.”

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