DERRY — Hospitals across the region are continuing to see lower-than-average numbers of patients in their emergency rooms since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As they return to more normal operations, they are encouraging people to feel confident visiting their facilities when needed.
“Don’t wait for your care, we are safe ready and open," said John Skevington, CEO of Parkland Medical Center, an 86-bed regional hospital.
Local hospitals, like Parkland, are seeing the nationwide trend of emergency room visits decreasing significantly since the end of March, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. There have been slight increases in emergency-room patients since March at the hospital, however, healthcare workers are still concerned about their patients.
At Parkland there is a decrease in people seeking help for cardiac and stroke-like symptoms, Skevington said. Doctors have seen an increase in patients who have had those symptoms and waited to come in.
"We are definitely seeing patients who have waited," he said. "Fortunately, they are good outcomes.... Those are symptoms that you don’t want to wait to visit for. If anyone is experiencing chest pains, severe pains in your abdomen, you should not wait."
At Parkland they are seeing new patients from across the border in Massachusetts, Skevington added.
New Hampshire was not hit as hard as its southern neighbor by coronavirus cases. At Parkland the hospital cared for about 20% of New Hampshire's coronavirus hospitalized patients — 113 out of 565 since March — but never needed to use its surge spacing, Skevington said. However, about 20 miles south Lawrence General hospital did use some of their surge spacing, The Eagle-Tribune previously reported.
At Parkland as of June 25 there was only one coronavirus patient at the hospital, Skevington said. During the week of June 22, Lawrence General had reduced its number of coronavirus patients to 30 people per day on average, hospital spokesman Benjamin French said.
As hospitals are seeing fewer COVID-19 patients they are continuing the stringent cleaning and health protocols that went into place during the virus, like screening people at the door for symptoms and requiring all people to wear masks.
Parkland is starting to allow visitors as of Monday. One visitor will be allowed to visit each day between the visiting hours of 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. for the duration of a patients' visit.
“We all know how important it is to have that contact with your family, we are happy to resume that," Skevington said.
As hospitals continue to resume normal offerings of elective surgeries and doctors appointments, they continue to prepare and monitor for any potential surge in patients.
"We have definitely learned a lot" since the start of the pandemic, Skevington said. At Parkland they have continued to operate the emergency operations center and have continued to monitor the virus locally and across the country, he said.
As the hospital treats its only remaining coronavirus patient the same precautions of having staff separated to avoid contamination continues, Skevington said.
One of the potential hurdles to care is health insurance, Skevington pointed out. A lack of health insurance spurred by record unemployment might be one of the reasons people are seeking less care, he worries.
Parkland is working with other New Hampshire hospitals to establish a hotline to help people find healthcare coverage options. The service is free and not selling health insurance directly.
The hotline at 833-867-8771 is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.