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Why you should NOT avoid the ER

Parents struggle daily with questions that can have a lifelong impact on our children. During these unprecedented times of COVID-19, a new question that has arisen is whether it is safe to take our sick or hurt child to the pediatric emergency room. We worry that rather than be healed, our children will contract COVID-19.

In this instance, our worries are unfounded. Dr. Maximo Luque, medical director of the Steinbrenner Emergency and Trauma Center at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, says it is in families’ best interests that parents bring in their children as soon as possible when they feel that they need care. 

“All around the country, pediatric emergency departments and pediatric medical practices have seen a significant decrease in people seeking their services despite undergoing a medical emergency,” Dr. Luque says. “The fear, seeing hospital as a place their child could contract COVID-19, is making them delay visits. However, the thought of our hospitals as a focus of infection is misguided.”

Dr. Luque assures parents that not only  St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital’s  emergency center, along with BayCare’s pediatric ERs at St. Joseph’s Hospital-South and Mease Countryside Hospital, prepared with training, PPE and many other safety precautions, but not one frontline person in his department has contracted COVID-19, and not one single patient has contracted the disease from his department. Most children who have contracted COVID-19 (already a tiny fraction of total affected cases) have done so in the community, from a family member. 

In fact, bringing a child in later rather than earlier could have dire consequences, Dr. Luque says. For example, if a child is experiencing symptoms of acute appendicitis and is treated right when the tummy pains begin, they can probably be operated upon and discharged home that same day. If there is a delay in seeking medical attention and that same child is brought in after the appendix has perforated, they might face up to a week’s stay in the hospital, as well as antibiotics and possibly additional surgeries. 

Head injuries are another concern that are best tended to immediately. Dr. Luque has noticed that  some parents are waiting out falls, fractures and even seizures. Some injuries, such as lacerations, are more prone to infections the longer a family waits,  and seizures without evaluation and proper care may have a negative impact in a child’s future neurological health and development.  

How can you tell if a situation warrants a visit to an emergency room? Dr. Luque’s answer is simple: Trust your gut.

“If you feel as a parent that an illness or a sudden medical situation your child is experiencing can’t wait and it’s an emergency for you, it is an emergency for us as well,” he says. That is the purpose of us being here. Our team of highly specialized pediatric emergency clinicians are here to serve the children and families in our community.”

Safety Solutions

Here are some measures that St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and BayCare are following to ensure the safety of all patients, families and staff. 

  • Visitors as well as patients are required to wear masks, which will be provided to them if necessary. All team members also wear PPE.
  • Everyone entering BayCare hospitals or surgery centers will have their temperature taken and be screened for symptoms of COVID-19.
  • All spaces, including treatment rooms and waiting areas, are thoroughly cleaned and disinfected on a consistent basis. 
  • All patients will be tested for COVID-19 before having any surgical or other invasive procedure.
  • All hospital patients being treated for or suspected of having COVID-19 are cared for in separate areas.

Meet Trudy!

When it comes to cleaning, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital has some high-tech help. Meet Trudy. Tru-D SmartUVC (Total Room Ultraviolet Disinfection) is 5 feet, 5 inches tall, a mobile, automated UV disinfection system that works by generating UV light energy that modifies the DNA structure of an infectious cell so that it cannot reproduce. 

Tru-D does its job after a hospital team member cleans the room using traditional methods. It’s rolled in, and an operator turns on the machine from outside using a handheld remote. Tru-D analyzes the contents, shape and size of the room, then floods the targeted space with the proper amount of germicidal energy from the UVC lamps that run up and down its shaft. Once activated, Tru-D takes about 30 minutes to disinfect a patient room.

BayCare has 31 Tru-D units to clean its hospitals’ ICUs, patient rooms, surgery suites and emergency rooms. As well as COVID-19, the robot destroys pathogens such as influenza, norovirus, C-diff, Ebola and other bacteria.

Anu Varma Panchal
Anu Varma Panchal
Associate Editor Anu Varma Panchal has a master’s degrees in journalism and more than 15 years of experience writing and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Iowa and Florida. She has lived in Florida for more than 10 years, and enjoys raising her two daughters in Tampa Bay. When Anu isn’t writing or editing for area publications, she’s busy driving her kids to all their music and dance activities. She volunteers regularly in her daughters’ schools and Parent Teacher Associations, and spent a wonderful two years immersed in local history as a volunteer in the Tampa Bay History Museum’s Collections department. Although her idea of the ultimate good time is usually found between the pages of a book, Anu also enjoys yoga, her book club, travel, theater and area food and music festivals.

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