ZOOMER Magazine - - ZOOM IN - By Dr. Zachary Levine

THE ER IS OF­TEN A VERY BUSY and crowded place. The beauty of the ER but also what makes it so crazy is that all are welcome, and peo­ple are pri­or­i­tized on the sever­ity of their med­i­cal is­sue. On av­er­age, Cana­di­ans visit the ER more of­ten and wait longer than peo­ple in other Com­mon­wealth coun­tries. So ask your doc­tor what off-hours cov­er­age their of­fice has; many share an on-call sys­tem whereby off-hours and hol­i­days are cov­ered by a doc­tor. This could save you from hours in the ER. Here, a few more tips.

If you are se­verely ill, call an am­bu­lance. You may not be safe to drive; paramedics can be­gin life-sav­ing treat­ment en route; an am­bu­lance can usu­ally get there faster; and the am­bu­lance will know the best place to go – in many large cities, cer­tain cen­tres are deemed the stroke cen­tre or the heart cen­tre. That said, ar­riv­ing by am­bu­lance will not get you seen faster if your prob­lem does not war­rant it.

Life-threat­en­ing prob­lems are seen first, so even painful prob­lems can wait. Triage nurses de­ter­mine how life-threat­en­ing a prob­lem is and as­sign a triage code. Most ERs, how­ever, have poli­cies to treat pain early. It is im­por­tant to let the staff know if some­thing changes or gets worse.

Come with or meet an ad­vo­cate there if you can. If you need some­thing or feel worse, your ad­vo­cate can speak for you. Com­mu­ni­ca­tion is key – if you have a ques­tion or con­cern, then ask or say some­thing. Your ad­vo­cate can also keep track of who you saw and what was said and done.

To en­sure the most in­formed as­sess­ment, carry with you a list of your med­i­ca­tions, al­ler­gies, ill­nesses and doc­tors.

Dr. Zachary Levine is an assistant pro­fes­sor in the fac­ulty of medicine at McGill Univer­sity Health Cen­tre and med­i­cal correspondent for AM740 (a ZoomerMe­dia prop­erty).

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