A look inside French Hospital Medical Center emergency department

Posted at 5:58 PM, May 14, 2020

With fears of COVID-19 prevalent, hospitals on the Central Coast say people are waiting too long to seek emergency care.

French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo let KSBY reporter Neil Hebert inside the emergency room sector this week for an inside look at the safety precautions being taken there.

When you first enter French Hospital Medical Center in San Luis Obispo, protective masks are handed out and temperatures are checked for everyone who enters the sliding doors. To the left, a barrier separates possible COVID-19 patients from those experiencing other emergency situations.

“French Hospital has made sure that our staff has the adequate PPE,” said Cecilia Azziz Baumgartner, French Hospital Medical Center Emergency Room Director. “We do the isolation precautions yearlong because we not only have COVID patients, but in the past, we’ve had other types of isolations."

The French Hospital Medical Center emergency room, which opened its doors in February, has private patient rooms; an ideal situation to put patients at ease during this pandemic.

“Before COVID, we were receiving about 60-80 patients a day. After COVID, we are receiving about 30-40, so less than 50%,” Baumgartner said.

Matthew Scales, MD, French Hospital Medical Center Emergency Department Medical Director, believes the drop in numbers is due to people worried that by coming to the ER, they will contract the coronavirus, something he says could not be further from the truth.

“Emergency conditions don’t stop just because of a pandemic like coronavirus,” Scales said.

Baumgartner says they’re seeing the effects of people waiting too long to be seen.

“We are seeing cardiac patients, stroke patients, and sepsis patients,” Baumgartner said. “The outcome is poorer because they’ve been delaying their care at home. We encourage you to come as soon as you are sick. We are going to take care of you.”

Dignity Health encourages people to keep doctor appointments at outside facilities as well, as many patients are still being seen in-person or through telehealth visits.