When you need emergency care

Many people do not know when they should go to the emergency department (ED) for a health issue and when they do not need emergency care.

December 14, 2022

A medical emergency is a health issue that threatens your life or could cause permanent damage to your health. Here are examples of health emergencies* that need immediate attention.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Severe chest pain or pressure
  • Palpitations or fluttering in your heart
  • Choking
  • Severe bleeding
  • Suddenly not being able to move or speak 
  • Suddenly not being able to feel an arm or leg
  • Blacking out (fainting)`
  • Poisoning
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhea
  • Changes in mental status, such as confusion or unusual behavior
  • Difficulty walking
  • Changes in vision
  • Sudden onset of the "worst headache of your life"
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Thoughts of harming another person
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe burns
  • Broken bones
  • Deep cuts

*This is not a complete list.

When you face these or other emergencies, take the following steps:

1.  Go to the nearest ED

  • Call 911 or use the nearest ED or hospital
    • Call an ambulance if you need it 
  • Call 911 if: 
    • You cannot get to the ED right away
    • You are unable to take yourself or have someone else take you
    • It is not safe for you to move 

2.  Your Cityblock care team will call you within 48 hours after you receive emergency care in the ED. They will help you:

  • Tell your PCP about the emergency 
  • Go to your PCP or specialist (not the ED) for any follow-up care

When it’s not an emergency

If your condition is not an emergency but you need care, follow these steps:

  • Call your Cityblock care team at 1-833-904-2273 (TTY: 711); they can arrange for a provider to see you in your home to further assess your needs. 
  • Call your PCP’s office, even if it’s after hours or on the weekend
    • Call your health plan and ask the name of your PCP if you don’t know who your PCP is
    • Have someone, like your Cityblock care manager, call for you if you are unable to call yourself
  • Follow your PCP’s advice. You may be told to see your PCP right away
  • Your PCP may suggest that you go to an urgent care center or the ED
    • If you do not have a PCP, try visiting an urgent care center or walk-in clinic 

Tufts Health Unify is a health plan that contracts with both Medicare and MassHealth (Medicaid) to provide benefits of both programs to enrollees.