Reston, VA

At the Reston Hospital Center, staff members are seeing a decline in both COVID-19 and non-COVID-related patients.

Compared to August of 2019, Reston Hospital Center Emergency Room admissions are down 20 percent and the hospital only had six COVID-19 patients currently, which is the lowest number since May, according to David Jacobs, the chairman and medical director for Reston Hospital Center’s emergency department.

But, this trend is concerning, Jacobs said — especially when it comes to non-COVID related visits.

The downward trend is partially due to people avoiding the emergency room in fear of catching COVID-19 at the facility. Additionally, people aren’t coming in close contact with others, and therefore avoiding catching other communicable diseases, Jacobs added.

Jacobs says he’s concerned over the drop in admissions since this means people might not be seeking help when they need it, leading to medical complications that otherwise would have been avoidable.

Examples of this include not being able to diagnose appendicitis in time or someone ignoring the beginning stages of a heart attack, Jacobs said.

To keep people safe when they come into the emergency room, the Reston Hospital Center has set up strict protocols, according to Jacobs. These include separating people with COVID-19 from other patients, use of personal protective equipment, regular temperature checks, the requirement of face masks for anyone who enters the building and frequent cleaning.

When considering a visit to the emergency room, Jacobs said there is little risk of catching COVID-19 at the facility since staff members stick to the health protocols set in place. It is far more dangerous to ignore symptoms and avoid seeking medical help, he said.

Jacobs said people should seek immediate medical attention when they notice warning signs such as:

  • difficulty speaking
  • unusual and sudden weakness in legs or arms
  • chest pain
  • new or worsening abdominal pain

One grievance Jacobs said he has heard repeatedly from patients is that they find it difficult to schedule a time to meet with their regular health care providers.

“I think the whole medical system is readjusting and struggling with how to safely see patients,” he said, adding that Reston Hospital Center has availability for people who need to be seen. “We are open and we have capacity.”

Practitioners are also concerned about an increase in drug and alcohol abuse.

“I think more people are out of work and have more time on their hands,” he said adding that people have also been coming in with mental health issues such as depression and suicidal thoughts that can feed off from stress associated with the pandemic.

Though the medical facility doesn’t have a detox center on-site, it does have medical professionals who can give consultations and direct people towards further help.

Some good news is on the horizon. Unlike elsewhere in the country, Jacobs said he hasn’t noticed a rise in child abuse or domestic violence cases at Reston Hospital Center.

“I’ve certainly heard and read about that but can’t say that I’ve experienced that or heard about a spike in the Reston area,” he said. “I think that’s an issue of concern that follows with a lot of these drug and alcohol and psychiatric related issues but I think to-date we haven’t seen a spike in our department.”

Going forward, Jacobs said he hopes people won’t avoid the emergency room because of fear over COVID-19, as hesitation could be deadly.

“We have five months of experience with this,” he said.

Photo courtesy Reston Hospital Center

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