ER doc says it's 'scary' sending home people with symptoms

Dr. Sean Wormsbecker of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster and Eagle Ridge Hospital in Port Moody said hospitals are sending home symptomatic patients without testing them, he's concerned people won't follow quarantine direction

Hospitals are likely sending home patients without testing them for COVID-19 even through they appear to have symptoms because only the sickest are getting tested, says an emergency room doctor from Port Moody's Eagle Ridge Hospital.

And that’s a concern for Dr. Sean Wormsbecker, who said he is afraid people won’t take COVID-19 seriously or follow quarantine orders, possibly encouraging the spread of the disease with their actions.

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See video below.

Dr. Wormsbecker, who also works at Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster, posted a video to YouTube March 28 airing his concerns and raising questions about why more people aren’t getting tested for the coronavirus.

In the video, he said it’s necessary to prioritize for COVID-19 testing very ill patients who come into hospital, health care workers or clusters that are being actively investigated.

Hospitals need to know if someone has COVID-19 before admitting them because of the challenge of isolating patients from one another. If patients are coming into hospital are stable and their lungs are functioning normally, they are told to go home and self-isolate.

The concern is that people are using the total number of positive cases as somehow being a benchmark for “how we’re doing or how we’re not doing and people are modifying their behaviour according,” Dr. Wormsbecker said in the video.

“That means if I see you in my department, you are stable, your lungs are functioning normally, I’m going to be sending you home and directing you to self quarantine for 14 days.

“And that scares me because 10 years of medical practice has taught me that unfortunately patients aren’t consistent in following direction.”

While he didn't criticize B.C.'s priorities or actively call on people to self-isolate if they are sick. Dr. Wormsbecker warned that B.C.can't be compared to other countries that tested more and enforced tougher lockdowns.

“We can’t consider those countries like Singapore or [South] Korea as a benchmark for what’s to come,” Dr. Wormsbecker said.

“We aren’t at the standard of quarantine, not at that standard for isolation and we’re definitely not at that standard for testing, so in the meantime, we have to do our best for the people we see.”

His comments followed a presentation Friday on modelling of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases, during which Dr. Bonnie Henry presented the province's current epidemiological modelling of COVID-19, which shows how social, or physical, distancing measures may have helped lessen the spread of the virus in B.C. 

Saturday, Henry said there were 884  confirmed cases in B.C., with 92 new cases since Friday.

For more COVID-19 coverage, go here.

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