GM: To put those numbers in perspective, you’re saying that the Emergency Department receives over 20 percent of Staten Island’s population of 500,000 annually. How does the department prepare for so many emergencies?
BA: On any given day of the week, we can predict how many people will require an emergency visit and we make preparations to handle more than that number.
GM: That’s an impressive feat, considering the very idea of an emergency is its unexpected occurrence. To what factors can you attribute an influx of emergencies on your busiest days?
BA: The weather is a big factor. With extreme cold we tend to see the most sick, while the least sick will stay home. On mornings with bad frost, we handle accidents from people slipping on the ice. With soaring temperatures we’ll see those who don’t have the means to cool their 110-degree apartment. We are the community’s safety net and must be sensitive and respond to the current environment.
GM: Obviously the weather is beyond our control, but what things can people do in order to protect themselves from an emergency?
BA: There are two areas that people do have control over: personal safety and medical safety. People put their personal safety at risk due to poor decision making. Sadly, every year accidents occur in the swimming pools of private homes. Each year we handle a high number of second-degree burns due to sun exposure. It’s not enough for people to put sun block on. They need to reapply as well. People also need to be aware of their own medical conditions. Know your blood pressure, as well as what makes it go up and down. We often don’t take care of ourselves and listen to our bodies.
GM: It sounds like having an open line of communication with your doctor about current medical conditions can save you a trip to the Emergency Room. What types of questions should people ask their doctor?
BA: People have a responsibility to ask their doctor about the side effects of any prescribed medications. By being in tune with your body’s reaction to these medications, you’ll recognize any unusual headaches, nausea or other pains. People often get frustrated from the side effects and stop taking their medications without consulting their doctor. More often, this leads to a worsening of the original condition for which the medicine was prescribed and a forced visit to the Emergency Department.
GM: This brings up an important point that physicians must be aware of, such as what situations constitute an emergency.
BA: Yes, we started our emergency residency program four years ago to train our own physicians to handle emergencies. We predict a shortage of physicians in emergency medicine 10 years from now, and this program will help lessen those deficiencies in our community. July 2013 will see our first graduates, who will be fully trained to care for people who come through the Emergency Department.
GM: With additional staff being added, what other changes have you seen occur in emergency medicine?
BA: The biggest change we’ve seen is a focus on the patient as a customer. Patients are presented with multiple medical choices, and when they show up at our Emergency Department, they are placing their lives in our hands. We have a responsibility to treat everyone who comes through our doors with dignity and respect.
GM: Your work in patient care and commitment to the community are being honored this month by the Maffeo Foundation’s annual Angel Award. What does this award mean to you?
BA: I grew up in Staten Island. It’s a big deal coming back here and taking care of the people in my own community. I’m proud to have played a role in introducing high-quality emergency care here on Staten Island. And moreover, the Emergency Department has become a part of the community.
GM: Is it safe to say you always had intentions to return to your neighborhood?
BA: I can’t say that I had it planned out, but once the opportunity arose I couldn’t turn it down. It definitely feels nice to be back home.
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