Whether you broke a leg in a traffic accident or had a heart attack, you may also be a COVID-19 patient. Staff members in emergency rooms (ER) have every right to be careful as the pandemic, which claimed many lives among health care workers, remains a big threat to daily life in Turkey.
As the country transitions to the “new normal” by lifting restrictions but making measures like wearing masks obligatory, health care workers plan their next steps. Sure, they are relieved by a lighter coronavirus caseload, but the danger is still here.
The ER team of Cerrahpaşa Faculty of Medicine in Istanbul used to handle 300 to 400 COVID-19 cases daily. Their burden has eased but they have to be careful. Before admitting anyone to clinics for surgery or other treatment, they check them for coronavirus.
Professor Ibrahim Ikizceli, who heads the Emergency Medicine Department, says infectious diseases were not the priority in the care of ER patients before the pandemic, “at least for those brought here after a traffic accident or a similar case.” Ikizceli told Demirören News Agency (DHA) that the outbreak led to an overhaul of the criteria for handling emergency cases. “We found out that any patient can be infected and can infect health care workers," he said.
The changing triage rules have helped staff separate COVID-19 positive patients from those who test negative. This helps reducing infection risk, but Ikizceli said the coronavirus also made patients more conscious. “They are now not occupying ERs for trivial reasons,” he said, referring to people seeking emergency treatment even for a simple headache. “In a way, emergency rooms have genuinely become emergency rooms. We have seen far lesser patients applying,” he said.
Although lessened, the risk lingers, and Cerrahpaşa’s ER still receives 15 to 20 suspected cases daily. “These are mostly cases stemming from negligence. For instance, we detect positive cases among each person in the close proximity of a positive case in an apartment building or in a neighborhood. This means we are not good enough yet at observing measures and do not wear masks. Elderly citizens are more vulnerable now as their curfew is eased, and they will be exposed more to the virus if they step out into an environment where people ignore the rules,” he warned.
Emel Çavuş Şimşek, chief nurse at Cerrahpaşa ER, also complains about people ignoring the rules. “One of the nurses here was infected, but it was not from a patient admitted to the ER. It was her own cousin who visited her. She worked here among COVID-19 patients for months but was not infected because she was cautious and wore protective equipment all the time. Therefore, we have to be more careful while hanging out with friends and family,” she said.