By Natalie Leung
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people may have fears about seeking medical attention at hospitals – that they might expose themselves to the virus, or be an unnecessary burden on the health system. Paravaneh Laraya learned those fears aren’t necessary.
Earlier this month, Laraya got up at night, slipped and fell. The next morning, she felt pain in her arm and wasn’t sure if she needed any additional medical attention. She called her daughter, Dr. Nadine Laraya, a local family physician and the Community Family Medicine Liaison at St. Joseph’s Health Centre, who told her to visit the Emergency Department (ED).
“It’s a unique situation that I’m in, being on both the care side and the patient side,” says Dr. Laraya. “But when I realized that my mom had fallen and needed medical attention, there was no doubt in my mind that emergency rooms were safe for her to use.”
Although she had some concerns about seeking care at a hospital during the pandemic, Laraya took her daughter’s advice and went to St. Joseph’s ED.
“When I was heading to the hospital, COVID-19 came to mind. But when I arrived, I saw that it was a good setup – there was a lot of room in the waiting area and people were able to stay far apart from one another,” says Laraya. “It made me feel safe.”
When patients enter the EDs at St. Joseph’s and St. Michael’s Hospital, they are screened for signs, symptoms and contact with COVID-19. They go through the standard triage to ensure they are assessed in the safest and most appropriate area.
“Some patients are waiting too long to seek urgent care which is concerning because it can potentially lead to further issues,” says Sonya Pak, Senior Clinical Director, Emergency and Medicine at St. Joseph’s. “If you require care, you should come to the hospital and not delay – we’ve done a lot of work to make sure everyone is safe and gets the care they need.”
Proper precautions, such as hand hygiene stations and physical distancing measures, are in place throughout our hospitals. In addition, both the St. Michael’s and St. Joseph’s COVID-19 Assessment Centres are located outside the main hospital buildings.
For those who are unsure if they need to go their nearest ED, Dr. Laraya suggests reaching out to a family doctor or calling Telehealth Ontario.
“Most family doctor offices are still operating. They can provide a bit more guidance on whether or not a visit to the ED is something that is required.”
After examination, Dr. Laraya’s mother found out she had broken her arm during her fall. She now has several follow-up appointments scheduled at the Health Centre’s Fracture and Orthopaedic Clinic. She hopes her story will encourage other patients to seek medical help when they need it.
“My experience was pleasant, fast and efficient,” she says. “I was glad I went to St. Joseph’s because I received really good care.”
Natalie Leung is a communications adviser at Unity Health Toronto.