UPHS-Portage’s Emergency Department is there when needed

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U.P. Health System-Portage hospital photo Pictured is Dr. Tara Robinette, medical director of the UP Health System-Portage Emergency Department.

People know that UP Health System-Portage’s Emergency Department (ED) is there when it is needed. But, when is it needed?

“We honestly see everything from heart attacks to stubbed toes… It’s often hard for anyone without a medical background to decide whether something is serious,” said Dr. Tara Robinette, Emergency Department medical director at UPHS-Portage. “Anyone who wants to be seen is seen, no questions asked… regardless of their ability to pay.”

Robinette earned her undergraduate degree from Michigan Tech and went downstate for medical school. She returned to the area for a rotation in the UPHS-Portage ED in 2014. Following the rotation, she applied, and was hired to an open position. A year later she became the director. This administrative position that Robinette fills in addition to her medical responsibilities helps to give a bigger picture view to her in-room experience. Any administrative role in the Emergency Department is a big job in part because of the many certifications that the ED and its physicians maintain.

“Nearly all of our physicians are Emergency Medicine Board certified. They’re specialized to take care of emergency patients,” said Robinette. “The ED is also a level 3 trauma center certified by the American College of Surgeons … and an accredited Chest Pain Center with the American College of Cardiology.”

Heart attacks and perceived heart attacks are one of the most common reasons for patients to visit the ED. Chest pain, the most recognized symptom of a heart attack, can also be caused by everything from pulled muscles to digestive issues. Symptoms of a heart attack should always be taken seriously. That is why everyone who arrives at the ED with a possible heart attack receives an EKG within five minutes. The ED also has around-the-clock access to other diagnostic tools including CT scanners, X Rays, and Ultrasound.

But, what happens if a patient does have a heart attack or other serious conditions?

“We’re a small hospital,” said Robinette. “We don’t have the specialties to handle some conditions.”

UPHS-Portage works with Mercy Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Valley Med Flight. Mercy EMS is the well-known ambulance service. Valley Med Flight is a service that brings patients to other medical centers via a small fixed-wing airplane, accompanied by a nurse and a paramedic that specialize in transmitting high-risk patients.

Before patients are transported, their conditions are stabilized by the staff at UPHS-Portage. They are then transported to other large medical centers including UPHS-Marquette and the University of Michigan hospital.

Of course, not all patients who go to the ED think that they are having heart attacks. Reasons for ED visits change throughout the year and right now some of the most common visits are because of cold-weather issues including cold and influenza cases.

“We’re just starting to see the first confirmed cases of influenza,” said Robinette. “If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, it’s not too late.”

Influenza – which is most dangerous for the young and the elderly – can be fought by regularly washing hands, not sharing food, and staying at home when symptoms appear.

Another common cause for ED visits this time of year, and especially this winter, are injuries due to slipping and falling. Many falls can be prevented by being more careful when walking in difficult conditions, and wearing boots with good grips. It can also be important to not carry too much while walking, as this can make it difficult to maintain balance or to safely stop a fall.

So, how do you know if you should go to the ED or another service like Express Care? Express Care deals with a number of aches and pains including back pain, minor cuts and burns, sore throats and other common cold and flu symptoms, and tooth aches. More serious and more acute pains including possible broken bones and heart attacks are better taken to the ED. Another deciding factor is that Express Care is open from 9 a.m.-7 p.m. while the ED is open 24 hours. Just as the ED is able to refer patients to larger care centers when necessary, Express Care will send severe patients to the ED.

For more information on the UPHS-Portage Emergency Department and Express Care, visit www.portagehealth.org/our-services/emergency-services.

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