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Local ER physicians reassure residents that emergency rooms are safe for non-coronavirus patients

Posted at 6:50 PM, Apr 01, 2020

As the number of coronavirus cases continue to rise on the Central Coast, some people have been left wondering what they or a loved one should do if they have a health emergency in the midst of an outbreak.

One resident says she was in the very same predicament this week.

Michelle W. had all the symptoms of a possible heart attack but says she was scared to go to an emergency room.

“The first thing I thought of was, 'I don’t want to go into the emergency room because I don’t want to get COVID-19,'” she said.

After talking with her primary care physician, Michelle decided to head to the emergency room at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center in San Luis Obispo.

She was eventually released from the hospital but says she was impressed with the care she received during her short visit.

“I just noticed the humor and the lightheartedness of the nurses and my doctor, Dr. Toole, she was amazing and just made me feel so comfortable there,” she said.

She noted that there were different tents set up for patients depending on their symptoms.

Dr. Mandy Toole, an ER physician at Sierra Vista, says she encourages people to come in without any worries if they truly need urgent care.

“If you have any sort of an injury like a laceration, don’t wait 24 hours or longer because then we can’t help. Any kind of of head injury, trauma, in all honestly, shortness of breath -- it doesn’t have to be because of COVID, it could be a pulmonary embolism,” Dr. Toole said.

She adds that her staff is taking precautionary measures such as asking all patients, regardless of their condition, to wear masks in order to protect not only themselves but the nursing staff.

“We just want everyone to feel as comfortable as possible when they come here and know that we are here to take care of them and we’re doing our best to keep things separate,” Dr. Toole said.