ER’s still open for business in Odessa

In an odd twist, concerns about COVID-19 may be discouraging Odessa residents from seeking treatment for emergency health care, David Graham, emergency department director for Medical Center Health Systems, said during a Friday news conference.
For example, pre-pandemic the hospital was averaging 180 emergency visits per day, MCHS officials noted. Since March, that number has plunged to as little as 100 people per day.
“There’s been a lot of confusion in the community,” Graham said. “Every day I’m getting phone calls and even text messages from people asking if the emergency room is open.
“The answer is “yes,” we’re open 24/7.”
Officials at Odessa Regional Medical Center confirmed their emergency room is also open, but declined to provide any further details.
Part of the confusion is people hear that hospitals are filled with COVID-19 patients and how overworked hospital staff are, Graham explained. While that is true, emergency rooms are separate entities that have their own staff.
“A lot of people tell me, ‘Well, we know how overwhelmed hospitals are,’” Graham said. “No. People shouldn’t avoid us thinking that they’re doing us a favor.
“We don’t want people to avoid us if they have a serious problem. If someone falls down and has hip pain, or feels tightness in their chest, they need to get checked out. There’s no reason to avoid us. We’re not overwhelmed in the ER.”
The current estimated waiting period from when someone walks through the door is less than 10 minutes, ER staff noted during the news conference. An extra 7 beds have been added in the emergency department in order to see patients quicker and provide better social distancing.
Graham said strict safety measures are in place to prevent visitors from being exposed to the coronavirus.
“Everyone is screened before they enter the emergency room and placed in private rooms,” Graham said. Masks are provided to all visitors and very stringent cleaning and disinfectant measures are followed, he added.
MCHS also provides care that other smaller emergency facilities don’t offer.
“We offer monoclonal antibody treatments which have proven effective in people with mild cases of COVID,” Graham said.
In order to prevent overcrowding and proper social distancing, only the adult seeking emergency services are allowed into the hospital, Graham said. They can only be accompanied inside by another adult if it’s medically or legally necessary. Young children can be accompanied by one adult.
If someone brings a guest to help them fill out paperwork information, that guest must wait outside the emergency room and ER staff will go outside or call that person to help answer patient information, Graham said.