As COVID-19 cases continue to rise, hospital intensive care units are starting to fill up along with other areas that seem to be taking a hit right now.
Emergency rooms are getting overcrowded but here's the thing, it's a problem that doesn’t need to be as bad as it is.
Here in Central Texas, we are seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases and many of them are severe, requiring hospitalizations.
A great number of those severe cases are coming through Emergency Rooms.
"You know, respiratory failure, needing a ventilator and needing an ICU. But we’re definitely seeing an increase in the overall COVID population over the past few weeks,” said Dr. Joshua Hauser, medical director for Emergency Department at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest.
Severe COVID-19 cases are just one of the many situations that E.R. doctors are great at treating.
"Things that threaten quality of life, life itself, vision, and limbs. So, a stroke, a heart attack, broken bones; those are things we excel at treating,” said Dr. Marcella Knauf, MD. Emergency Medicine Doctor with AdventHealth in Killeen.
Right now, they are getting busier and busier, and patients are seeing wait times of up to six hours or more in some cases.
Adding to the problem is a large number of people coming to the E.R. for situations that aren’t best served by emergency medicine.
"Cough, cold, runny nose, nasal congestion 'I just need a COVID test/ I just need a work note' those are things that probably should be in urgent care or other facilities.” said Dr. Hauser.
In fact, many of these things can be treated at home and don’t warrant an E.R visit.
"You could try some fluids, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, some over-the-counter medications for yourself or your children. If you feel better, then maybe you could think about going to the pediatrician in the morning or scheduling an appointment with your own doctor,” said Dr. Knauf.
But if you’re unsure if you need to go to the E.R. there are steps you can take before you get in the car.
"We also have a nurse advisory line that you can talk to a nurse 24/7 through Baylor Scott & White folks. They can give you advice 24/7 on if you need to go to the emergency room or if you need to see your doctor the next day, or what you should do at that time,” said Dr. Hauser.
The bottom line is, hospitals are super busy right now and they’re trying to keep Emergency Rooms for emergencies only.
So, if you have other options for treatment ... that is the route you should take. But if you feel it is an emergency, you should get to the E.R. as soon as possible or call 911.