Is it Really an Emergency?

Choosing the best place for treatment

By Sue Baldani

When a serious accident happens or when someone is experiencing chest pains or other life threatening signs and symptoms, it’s imperative that he or she is brought to and treated in the Emergency Room or Emergency Department of a hospital. Whether taken in by ambulance or personal vehicle, the person is given priority and seen right away.

Of course, many other non-life threatening issues, such as broken bones and lacerations, are seen in emergency rooms as well. The all-volunteer Scotch Plains Rescue Squad answers over 1100 calls every year, and while some of these fall into the first category of critical emergencies, others are of the latter variety. Getting patients who need emergency care to the hospital quickly and keeping them as stable as possible during transport are always the goals.

However, some people believe that calling 911 and being taken to an emergency room by ambulance means they’ll be prioritized and seen quicker, even for something as minor as a small cut that may need one or two stitches. But, this is not the case. Who is seen first is determined by medical need, not by mode of transportation.

Others with even minor ailments, such as a stomach upset or a wrist sprain, may call for an ambulance with the belief that their discomforts will be taken more seriously. Although the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad cares for all patients, people suffering from these issues would probably be better off going to their own doctors. Many hospitals are still dealing with staff shortages due to the pandemic, and the wait to see a medical provider for a minor issue often means hours and hours of sitting around. Then, they’re usually told to follow up with their primary care physician anyway.

Going to an emergency room for non-dire medical problems also exposes people unnecessarily to much more serious illnesses such as COVID-19 and other viruses and bacteria.

So next time, before calling for an ambulance for a slight injury or mild illness, first see if you can get an appointment with your family doctor either in person or virtually, or visit an urgent care facility. You’ll likely be treated much quicker, and you’ll free up emergency personnel to deal with those who need help immediately.

Contributing Author:  Susan Baldani, a lifemember of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad.

Written for local press outlets in New Jersey.

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