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Frequently Asked Questions About the Emergency Department

Q. Why do some patients get seen first?

A. Emergency treatment must be given to the most seriously ill or injured patients first. Ambulances may arrive by another entrance and sometimes those patients are seen before patients who are not as critically ill.

Q. Why can't I see a doctor right away?

A. We try to take care of patients in the order they arrive. But sometimes we need to treat more serious cases first. For example, a person hurt in a car accident may be seen before someone with a headache or a sprained ankle.

Q. When can I see a family member or friend who is being treated in the Emergency Department?

A. The treatment area is not large and there are often many patients being treated. Patient privacy is an important concern of ours. The nurse will bring you in to see your family member or friend as soon as possible.

Q. I am the patient. Why must I sometimes wait in the treatment room?

A. There are a number of reasons why this may occur. The clinician needs time to talk to you to get to know your medical history. The clinician or nurse may be calling your doctor. The clinician may be waiting for your x-rays or blood tests to come back.

Q: Do I need to bring anything to the emergency department with me?

A: Yes. You should bring identification, insurance cards, and a list of your medications and dosages. You should also know your medical history, your allergies, and the names of your doctors.

Q: I have been a patient at Centinela Hospital Medical Center before, and everything is in the computer. Why do I have to answer questions again?

A: Each visit to the hospital requires a new record for the visit. While some information can be looked up from your previous visit, it is very important that we verify your personal and your medical information every time that you need to access our services. We need to make copies of your insurance and identification cards, and your medication list every time.

Q: If I come to the hospital in an ambulance, will I be seen quicker?

A: No. Patients are seen according to the nature of their medical problem and the area of the department which is best equipped to handle their medical problem.

Q: I want an MRI. Why can't I get an MRI in the emergency department?

A: An MRI is not a test which is needed on an emergent basis. If an MRI is indicated, you will need to obtain a prescription from your primary physician or the physician that you are given to see for follow-up care. Once you have the prescription, the MRI can be scheduled through our Outpatient Department.

Q: I have heard that if a patient has a broken bone, a traditional cast is not applied in the emergency department. Why not?

A: The broken bone is immobilized using casting material which acts as a splint, rather than a traditional cast which totally surrounds the hand, arm, foot, or leg. A traditional cast is applied by an orthopedic surgeon at a follow-up visit in their office, usually within a few days of your emergency department visit.

Q: Why don't you provide me with copies of my x-rays?

A: X-ray images are now digital, meaning that they are electronic and viewed on a computer terminal. If your physician is on staff at Centinela Hospital Medical Center, he or she can view these images from their office. If your physician is not on staff, your images can be placed on a special CD which you can take with you for your follow-up visit. Under certain circumstances, an image can be printed on film for you to take with you. There may be a waiting period to have the CD or images prepared for you.

Q: What happens if I don't have insurance?

A: We treat all patients according to their medical problem regardless of their insurance or ability to pay. After your medical treatment, if you do not have insurance you can see our financial counselor to discuss options, including whether or not you are eligible for charity care.

Q: If my family or friends call the emergency department to inquire about my condition, what information can they be given?

A: We will not give out any information about a patient's condition. We can only confirm that you are a patient, unless you ask us not to.

Q: My doctor told me to come to the emergency department. When will I see him/her?

A: All patients coming to the emergency department will be seen by an emergency department doctor. If necessary, the ED doctor will contact your doctor to discuss your medical problem. If you are admitted to the hospital, your doctor will assume your care. If you are discharged, you will need to follow-up with your doctor.

Q: Are copies of my test results automatically sent to my doctor?

A: No. If your doctor knows that you were a patient in our emergency department, he or she can look up those results any time from a hospital-based computer. In addition, you or your doctor can call the Health Information Management (HIM) Department and ask that a copy of your record be faxed to the doctor's office.

Q: Can I get my prescriptions filled while I am in the emergency department, or can I get samples?

A: No. We do not have a retail pharmacy on the premises, and we are not authorized to provide medication samples. If indicated, the doctor will order that you receive the first dose of your prescription while you are here. There are many local retail pharmacies and several are open 24 hours daily.

Q: I have a prescription plan. Do you pre-certify medications?

A: No. The emergency department doctor prescribes what he/she feels is best indicated for your medical problem. If you later find out that your plan does not cover the prescribed medication, your pharmacist can call the emergency department doctor and recommend a substitution which the doctor can then order.

Q. Who will take care of me while I'm being treated?

A. The people taking care of you may include some or all of the following:

  • Attending physician: the doctor in charge of your care. All of our attending physicians are board certified/eligible.
  • Physician assistant: a certified healthcare professional working with the supervision of an attending physician.
  • Primary nurse: the nurse who cares for you throughout your treatment in the Emergency Department.
  • Emergency room technicians: healthcare professionals who assist the doctors and nurses. They are trained to draw blood and take electrocardiograms (records of the heart's activity).
  • Radiology technicians: specialists responsible for transporting patients to the Imaging Department, taking images and then bringing patients back to the Emergency Department.
  • Respiratory therapists: specialists trained to help people with breathing problems.

Q. Will I have to be admitted to the hospital?

A. You only need to stay in the hospital if the doctors think you need more care, or if they want to keep an eye on you for a while. When this is the case, the Emergency Department will contact the Admitting Department to have a room assigned to you. How quickly you are taken to your room depends on the number of patients in the hospital. When there are a lot of patients, you may have to wait until another patient is discharged and the room is cleaned and disinfected. This may mean you will have to wait in the Emergency Department for some time. We will make you as comfortable as possible until your room is ready.

Q. Can someone be with me while I'm in a treatment room?

A. Yes, you may have two visitors with you. Both of them must display a visitor's pass, which we'll provide. There are times when we may ask your visitors to remain in the waiting area or to step out of the Emergency Department. These requests are made for your privacy as well as for the privacy of our other patients. We may also make this request during the times when members of our medical staff need to give you care. It is important for your visitors to follow our instructions.

Q. If my family or friends aren't with me, how will they know how I'm doing?

A. Our nurses try to check back with your family or friends often to let them know how you are doing. But sometimes they are busy treating many people. Those waiting for you should feel free to ask a nurse about you whenever they feel anxious or concerned.

Q. Is there somewhere nearby to get something to eat and drink?

A. Before getting anything to eat or drink while you wait to see a doctor, be sure to check with the triage nurse. It may be better for you to wait until after you receive treatment to have a meal or snack. For your family or friends who would like something to eat or drink, the Centinela Hospital cafeteria is located on the second floor of the hospital. Vending machines located in the cafeteria have soft drinks and snacks. Additional vending machines are located outside the entrance of the emergency department.

Q. Can I smoke in the hospital?

A. No, smoking is not allowed in the hospital nor on the hospital campus.