CENTRAL ILLINOIS (WMBD) — Central Illinois hospitals are experiencing an influx of people heading to the emergency room, but are taking away resources others desperately need.
“We are backed up to above 50 patients with active COVID between our three hospitals. It’s taking a little extra work from all our staff, even though we’re all a bit short-staffed,” said Chief Medical Officer for UnityPoint Health in Peoria, Samer Sader.
With a backup like this one, it can lead to a cancellation of medical treatment for other people.
Sader said, “We have had to cancel some elective surgeries to make sure that we have room in the hospital to allow people to come in.”
Peoria’s OSF is experiencing higher wait times for those coming into the emergency room for the same reason.
“When you step into the emergency department right now, if you’re experiencing long waits, that’s kind of a byproduct of the congestion of the system as a whole,” said Victor Chan, chief of emergency services at Saint Francis Medical Center.
Both hospitals have leaders asking the public to only come to the emergency room if they really need it.
Chan said, “If you have a primary care doctor established, that’s always a good first place to start. But if there’s a question whether or not… I maybe should or should not get checked out urgently or not urgently, there’s a nurse line with OSF.”
They say those who need a COVID-19 test and only have minor symptoms, to get a test from a local pharmacy, so resources from local hospitals are still available.
Jake Mefford, clinical director for the eastern region of OSF OnCall Urgent Care said their urgent care centers have many of the resources hospitals have but are more tailored for minor injuries and illnesses.
“Anything we can do to absorb as much acute visits as possible, and free the emergency department up to take care of those higher acuity patients, and really let them focus on those patients is essentially our goal,” Mefford said.
He said those care centers are open from 8 a.m. until 8 p.m. 365 days a year, and added, they have resources for those who have questions after hours as well.
This includes a chatbot named Clare, found on OSF HealthCare’s OnCall website, that can help patients determine the care they need, as well as different virtual care options, which are available around the clock.
“We do see people in the after-hours that want a virtual visit with a provider, but they’re really trying to determine ‘can I wait to go to urgent care or see my pediatrician tomorrow, or do I need to go to the emergency department,’” said Mefford.
He assured that virtual care providers can help determine if a patient needs to visit the emergency room, and if they do, there is no extra charge for the virtual visit.