February 7, 2023

The Emergency Department is often at capacity these days and the wait times can be long. Patients should be reassured they are going to get the best possible care, with the best resources and the best staff.   The Emergency Department does an excellent job at triaging (determining highest priority health issues), and those patients who require immediate care will get care right away.  We want people to have access to their families. We want you to be seen in a timely manner. We want to care for you.

But emergency care is not usually fast, does not work like appointments and can never be predicted.   We understand this can be frustrating at times when you or a loved one is unwell.  However, we must ask that people be more tolerant.  We do our best to meet the needs of our patients and we deal the best we can with circumstances that are beyond our control.

There are many factors contributing to increased wait times in the Emergency Department.  Many of these issues cause patients to be held in the ED where they occupy a bed for long periods of time instead of being transferred which basically reduces the number of patients staff are able to care for.

Lack of beds at larger hospitals – unable to transfer

Shortage of behavioral health facilities – unable to transfer

Shortage of nursing home beds – unable to transfer

Shortage of EMS – unable to transfer

Delay of Services when regional facilities cannot accept new patients for specialist care

Decreased or discontinued specialty services in our region at the larger hospitals

In addition to these issues, we have many patients in the ER who do not have true emergent needs.  You should use a hospital emergency room for very serious or life-threatening problems.  For common illness or minor injuries, contact your primary care provider’s office as an initial first step. If you lack a primary care provider and are therefore utilizing the ED for primary care or walk in clinic level treatment, we urge you to seek out and establish with a primary care provider.     Also, know your health insurance benefits, and check for a telehealth care option.  Many health insurance policies offer this service for afterhours consults to avoid emergency room visits for non-emergent issues.  The more people who have non-emergent care needs met through primary care or telehealth, means we have more resources to care for those who have an emergency.

Some basic guidelines to consider when deciding if you need emergency care are listed below.

 If you are experiencing any of the following, don’t wait!  Call 911 and get to your nearest hospital or emergency room.

  • Chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pains
  • Coughing or vomiting blood
  • Severe burns
  • Deep cuts or bleeding that won’t stop
  • Sudden blurred vision
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Sudden dizziness, weakness, or loss of coordination or balance
  • Numbness in the face, arm, or leg
  • Sudden, severe headache (not a migraine)
  • Seizures
  • High fevers
  • Any other condition you believe is life threatening

The best place to get care is a doctor’s office or clinic for common illnesses, minor injuries, and routine health exams.  Your doctor can also help you manage your health over time.

You should make an appointment with your doctor’s office for:

  • Common illnesses such as colds, flu, earaches, sore throats, migraines, fever, or rashes
  • Minor injuries such as sprains, back pain, minor abdominal pain, cuts and burns, minor broken bones, or minor eye injuries
  • Regular physicals, prescription refills, vaccinations, and screenings
  • A health problem where you need advice

Telehealth services can be utilized if your provider’s office is closed, or you are not able to get an appointment.  Telehealth services can provide care for many of the medical needs that are addressed by your provider or clinic.  Contact your insurance carrier to learn if a telehealth program is included in your plan.  Most telehealth services are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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