Waiting too long to seek care could be harmful

April 27, 2020
A nurse standing next to a Nurse Assessment sign.

A worrisome trend of people being reluctant to seek medical care in hospitals is concerning health care providers. 

With the abundance of messages around the importance of staying home to reduce the spread of COVID-19, accessing health care might seem difficult. 

It may seem like a good idea to try and “ride out” concerning symptoms rather than going to a hospital, but it is imperative that people get diagnosed and treated promptly if their health status has changed. 

The first places you can turn to include the online self-assessment tool covid19toronto.ca, a phone call to your primary care provider, or Telehealth Ontario. It’s important to share all symptoms and information about your health history, this will ensure the right care is provided. If the advice is to go to the nearest emergency department that may well be the right thing to do.

A portrait of Dr. Paul Hannam smiling and wearing a white uniform.
Dr. Paul Hannam

“It is important that people know hospitals are still safe places to receive care,” says Dr. Paul Hannam, Chief of Emergency Medicine and Program Medical Director at North York General Hospital (NYGH). “Recently we are seeing that those who do come to the emergency department are sicker than usual. Some people have said that they were afraid to come and get help.”

Dr. Hannam understands that people are worried about contracting COVID-19, especially if coming to a hospital. But he stresses that the Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency at North York General is taking all precautions to protect patients and health care providers. 

“We all wear personal protective equipment and patients receive masks to wear while they are in the emergency department,” says Dr. Hannam. “Hand sanitizer is readily available and we’ve implemented physical distancing measures to ensure both our patients and our staff are safe.”

In fact, the entire hospital continues to provide safe, high-quality care for patients who need care. Where possible, clinicians and community providers are offering telephone and virtual appointments to ensure patients can receive ongoing care. NYGH is working closely with our partners to ensure these efforts are coordinated. 

“The community has overwhelmingly supported all of the strategies put in place to help slow the spread of COVID-19 – so far we are flattening the curve together,” says Dr. Hannam. “We’ve also seen an outpouring of support from businesses and individuals who are donating PPE and other important supplies. We are deeply appreciative and want people to know that we are still here for them.” 


If you are seriously ill or injured, or have a life-threatening condition, you can visit:

North York General Hospital’s Charlotte & Lewis Steinberg Emergency

4001 Leslie Street, Toronto

Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.