County encourages residents to call 911 only for emergencies

As hospitals fill up, County urges residents to call 911 only in true emergencies
Photo by Amy Sue.

COVID, flu and other respitory illnesses have led to higher-than-usual numbers of patients seeking care at Contra Costa County hospitals and healthcare providers this winter period, prompting Contra Costa Health (CCH) officials on Monday to urge residents to call 911 only if the need for care is truly an emergency.

Several local hospitals are reporting critically high level of patients occupying beds, “with more than 1,200 inpatients reported throughout the County as of Friday,” CCH reported Monday. Patients visiting emergency departments during the winter virus season may face longer waits depending on circumstances and the severity of their illness or injury. Depending on conditions, a paramedic assessing a patient may suggest that the patient visit an urgent care on their own, or call an advice nurse.

To help ease the situation, CCH has released this following list to help residents better understand when they should call 911 and to reduce strain on the County’s healthcare system:

  • Chest pain, difficulty breathing or a fast (120+ beats per minute) resting heartbeat
  • Numbness or weakness in any part of the body, seizures, or difficulty speaking
  • Fainting, unconsciousness, dizziness, sudden severe pain or headache, or confusion
  • Sudden blindness or vision changes
  • Heavy bleeding that will not stop with pressure, or broken bones
  • Choking, drowning or near drowning
  • Severe burns
  • Poisoning or drug overdose
  • Allergic reactions, especially if there is difficulty breathing
  • Someone making a credible threat to harm themselves or someone else

“When many people seek care through 911 at the same time, it reduces the number of emergency ambulances in circulation, ready to respond when someone in the county needs lifesaving care,” CCH officials state, adding. “CCH asks anyone considering whether to seek emergency care if a 911 call is the best way to get the services they need, or if contacting an advice nurse or urgent care might be more appropriate.”