Is your trip to the emergency room really necessary?
The White Rock South Surrey Division of Family Practice is launching a campaign to encourage people to avoid going to Peace Arch Hospital’s ER this holiday season by getting the “right care” at the “right place”.
Last year, over the Christmas holidays, people were waiting up to six hours in the ER for help, but the division’s physician lead, Dr. Grace Park, said many such situations can be avoided.
By educating the public on increased options for primary health care, less-urgent cases can be directed to more appropriate treatment venues, she said.
“There are (urgent) cases that need to be in hospital, of course,” Park said. “I think the message is that if we want the ER to be there for us when we really need it, we want to make sure that it’s being used well.”
For someone needing medical help over the holidays – particularly for an ongoing condition – a call to a family doctor might be the best first step, Park suggested.
As a result of the division’s ‘GP For Me’ initiative, there has been an increase in the number of family doctors in the area – and the number of patients registered with them – and a majority of area GPs have made adjustments to their schedules to be able to fit in patients on an urgent basis during the holidays, she noted.
In addition, the 811 HealthLink BC line offers a 24-hour service with nurses and other health-care professionals who can evaluate symptoms and advise callers on the best help available to them. That might include recommending a visit to the ER, but might offer alternatives, she said.
She also recommended checking the website, Medimap.ca, which not only identifies walk-in clinics but estimates wait times.
If the need is for something as simple as a renewed prescription, Park said, pharmacists can fax requests to family doctors and may be authorized to provide a limited amount of an ongoing prescription to tide patients over.
“The family doctor is usually the best person to treat a patient and give them the right continuity of care,” Park said. “Being in hospital, you’re often exposed to sick people – it’s better to stay away, for seniors in particular, who are often compromised or can succumb to hospital infections.”
Park said that past shortages of doctors in the community have led to a perception that their help is not an option in the short- term, but this has changed.