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Emergency Care | Emergency Department

Anyone can have a medical emergency. If there is an immediate threat to your health, you should go to the emergency department at the nearest hospital for treatment.

Do not drive a car if you are having a medical emergency. Emergency departments are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The ER provides immediate care.

Call 911 for an ambulance.

What is Emergency Care?

Emergency care is needed when you have a sudden medical problem that requires immediate hospital care. Call 911 if you have to get to the hospital right away. Medics can start treatment on the way to the hospital.

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, these are warning signs that you are having a medical emergency:

  • Bleeding that will not stop
  • Breathing problems
  • Change in mental status (unusual behavior, confusion)
  • Chest pain
  • Choking
  • Coughing up blood
  • Fainting or loss of consciousness
  • Feeling like harming yourself or someone else
  • Head or spine injury
  • Severe or persistent vomiting
  • Sudden injury such as a car accident, burns or smoke inhalation, near drowning, deep or large wound, etc.
  • Sudden, severe pain anywhere in your body
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness or change in your vision
  • Swallowing a poisonous substance
  • Upper abdominal pain or pressure

If you experience any of these problems, call 911 immediately.

What to Expect

Our team is here to care for you from the moment you arrive. Learn more about what to expect when you arrive at a MaineHealth emergency department.

MaineHealth provides free interpreter services. Learn more about interpreter services.

When to Use Urgent Care or a Walk-in Clinic

If this is a minor emergency or you just cannot get an appointment to see your regular provider, walk-in care or an urgent care facility may be an option.

Frequently Asked Questions about the Emergency Department

Below are some of the most common questions patients have when visiting the Emergency Department.

Your wait time depends on when space is available and when a provider becomes available to see you.

We start caring for you even while you are waiting. You will be assessed by a triage nurse and if needed, we may start certain tests.

Our team is here to support you while you wait.

We see patients based on the urgency of medical conditions. This means that patients with more severe conditions will be seen before you, even if you got here first. The urgency of your medical condition is assessed by a triage nurse after you are registered.

All patients, including those who arrive by ambulance, are triaged (assessed) when they arrive. Even patients that arrive by ambulance may need to wait to see a provider based on their medical condition and availability of treatment space.

Emergency departments are busy and many have limited space to see patients. Our goal is to have you seen by a provider as soon as possible. This means you may have to be see in an alternative space such as a hallway or expansion area. If a private room becomes available, and we feel it is needed for your care, we will move you. No matter where we treat you, our care team is here to provide the same high quality care.

If you are uncomfortable while you wait, please speak with the triage nurse or greeter. We may be able to offer items to comfort you such as a warm blanket, ice pack, or ice chips. Please do not eat or drink anything before speaking with a nurse or other provider.

We ask that you do not eat or drink anything while you wait in the waiting room. You may need tests or procedures that require you not to eat or drink beforehand.

For safety reasons, we ask you to please stay in the waiting area. This way we can quickly find you when a treatment space becomes available or we can be aware if your condition worsens.

We know how important it is to have your loved one with you during an emergency. If there is space, we may allow visitors to stay with the patient in the waiting room. If space is limited, we may ask visitors to wait outside or elsewhere. If you are waiting for a patient, keep your cell phone available so the patient or care team may call with updates.

Level 1 Trauma Center

Maine Medical Center’s Emergency Department in Portland is the only Level 1 trauma center in Maine. It is staffed by board-certified emergency medicine doctors. The Level 1 trauma center is a regional resource, caring for patients from Maine and New Hampshire.

Level 1 trauma centers are staffed to provide care to patients who have had major traumatic injuries, including falls, motor vehicle accidents, and gunshot wounds. Designation as a Level 1 trauma center by the American College of Surgeons indicates that a hospital has the highest level of care in the areas of:

  • Emergency medicine
  • Trauma surgery
  • Critical care
  • Neurosurgery
  • Orthopedic surgery
  • Anesthesiology
  • Radiology

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