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COVID-19 Resources

Coming to the Emergency Department in the Era of COVID-19

May. 21, 2020

As the region’s academic health system, UC Health’s infectious disease experts and emergency management teams are leading the organization’s and the city’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has helped flatten the curve of cases in our community.


But perhaps you’re concerned there’s a risk in coming to the Emergency Department. Our experts at UC Health can assure you our facilities are safe for you and your family to receive the care you need.

“While we understand that COVID-19 is a very concerning illness, patients need to understand that there are many other disease processes that require urgent and emergent care,” says Arthur M. Pancioli, MD, UC Health emergency medicine physician and Richard C. Levy, Chair in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. “Patients should not let the fear of COVID-19 prevent them from seeking care.”

Our Emergency Departments at both UC Medical Center and UC Health’s West Chester Hospital have taken the necessary steps to keep our patients safe while caring for those with COVID-19 symptoms, or non-COVID-19 conditions such as a heart attack or stroke.

Sanjay Shewakramani, MD, medical director of the Emergency Department at West Chester Hospital and associate professor in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the UC College of Medicine, has continued to work tirelessly with his team to ensure patients are receiving world-class care during COVID-19.

“Our role in patient care remains the same — to provide excellent quality of care to patients presenting with emergency conditions while maintaining a high degree of safety,” said Dr. Shewakramani, or “Dr. Sanjay” as he is known to patients.

Your Health Always Comes First

Our compassionate team of competent caregivers in each of our Emergency Departments are ready to care for patients in-person 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Even though COVID-19 may still be impacting our community, your health must always be your first priority.

“We are available for any and all emergencies,” said Dr. Sanjay. “If you think your symptoms can wait, please call your doctor’s office. But if you’re having chest pain, shortness of breath, or symptoms of a stroke, for example, come to the hospital. We want you to be seen.”

The clinicians in our Emergency Departments continue to take every precaution to keep our hospitals safe for patients or caregivers. If you feel that you need emergency care, please don’t hesitate – your health is essential.

UC Health’s Preparation to See Patients in the Emergency Department

For safety purposes, we have designated a portion of our Emergency Departments for patients who may be infected with COVID-19. Patients with non-COVID-19 illnesses are cared for in a separate area, and UC Health takes safety precautions within those areas to decrease the likelihood of infection for patients, clinicians and employees.

The side of the Emergency Department at UC Medical Center that sees COVID-19 patients, also known as the “Respiratory Emergency Department,” features a completely separate ventilation system that moves air from the treatment area safely out of the building.

There’s also an external respiratory tent, which provides more space to treat a large number of patients if needed. It also allows our clinicians to perform triage and initial evaluations outside of the main Emergency Department. This space is incredibly valuable if a massive surge were to occur.

Every patient who enters the hospital is given a surgical mask when they arrive, and all staff are wearing masks for the entirety of their shifts. Clinicians in the Emergency Department use new or freshly cleaned equipment for every patient they evaluate, and they also are diligent about cleaning common areas frequently.

All physicians, nurses and care staff continue to wear the appropriate PPE in clinical care areas. They wear masks and eye coverings and change gowns and gloves after each patient encounter. Each hospital’s no-visitor policy, except in limited circumstances, has also served to improve the safety of family and friends of patients.

Visiting the Emergency Department versus Urgent Care Centers

Urgent care centers can evaluate and treat patients with illnesses that are not life-threatening. Emergency Departments can manage those patients in addition to patients with life-threatening illnesses.

For patients who are concerned they might be infected with COVID-19 but do not have life-threatening symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath or severe weakness, testing may not be available at certain urgent care centers. You might want to call ahead to check before making the trip over. At this time, UC Health is able to test all patients who are symptomatic, though subject to change based on availability.

If you’re on the fence between an urgent care center versus the Emergency Department, patients are encouraged to call their doctor’s office for guidance or to call the specific urgent care center to see if they have testing/treatment capabilities for the specific illness.