SENIORS’ HEALTH: Family doctor, clinics best for non-urgent care

The ER is the best option for emergencies, but there are plenty of places to turn for treatment, says PAH department manager Jessie Saran

  • Mar. 29, 2017 7:00 p.m.

The Seniors Health Network each month poses a question to health-care professionals. This month, Jessie Saran, the manager for the Peace Arch Hospital emergency department, was asked to respond to this question:

I am an 85-year-old senior who is in pretty good health for my age. If my health suddenly takes a turn for the worse, is going to the ER my best choice?

Of course, if you think your condition is critical or life-threatening, you should call 911 or come to Peace Arch emergency, which serves the White Rock/ South Surrey community.

Our main function is to provide vital health care for those suffering from an acute and urgent illness. Our doors are open 24 hours/day, seven days /week with specialized medical teams ready to respond immediately to emergencies.

But generally, for health concerns that are short of emergencies, your own doctor is your health expert and should be your first call.

Your doctor knows your history and is the best person to provide advice as well as the kind of consistent care that is important to your health. You may be able to get an appointment that same day, depending on the doctor’s assessment of your concern.

If your family doctor is not available, a walk-in clinic is a good alternative.

Check on your phone or computer to find out the hours and wait times for all the walk-in clinics around the community. That will save you arriving at a clinic that is closed for the day or at a clinic that has a two-hour wait.

If you’re feeling unwell or have a minor injury and aren’t sure what to do – or if you just have a health question or need advice about a health issue – calling 811, Health Link BC, is a good choice. This free service is available 24 hours/day, seven days /week.

A representative will help you find health information and services, or connect you with a nurse for health advice, a dietitian for nutritional information or a pharmacist for medication advice.

Why should visiting emergency not be your first choice for a non-urgent concern?

Treatment in the emergency department is based strictly on clinical need, and those with less serious issues may face waits.

We have a system in which the sickest people are seen first. Those with less serious issues, regardless of when they arrive, will wait if there are more serious cases waiting to be seen either in the waiting room or perhaps arriving in the back via ambulance.

Just because the lady next to you in the waiting room arrived after you did does not mean you will be seen ahead of her; it all depends on who is the sickest, and you cannot always tell by looking.

When a patient arrives in the emergency, a specially trained ‘triage’ nurse will ask a series of questions about your illness. They are determining not only what your complaint is, but also how urgently you need to be seen by a doctor.

Patients with minor concerns, relative to those of others, may have to wait hours before being seen by the emergency medical team.

At the end of the day, if you are very sick, it is important to connect with a health-care provider. Don’t self-diagnose or delay care because this may result in your medical condition worsening.

When in doubt, call your family doctor as soon as possible or attend a walk-in clinic.

If all else fails, then go to the emergency department.

For those who need urgent care for a serious, potentially life-threatening condition, our emergency departments are there for you at any time of the day or night. Our nurses and physicians have specialized training in emergency medicine to ensure appropriate and timely care.

No patient will be turned away.

Your team of doctors and nurses at Peace Arch Hospital take great pride in coming to work every day to serve members of our community. Our team works hard to ensure that we are here to serve you 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The South Surrey White Rock Seniors Health Network is a coalition of seniors service providers working under the auspices of the Mayor of White Rock’s office. For information on resources, visit If you have a question for publication, please email