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Triad hospitals urge the use of emergency departments for true emergencies only

Wait times for non-life threatening injuries can be two to three hours or longer.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Hospitals around the Triad are asking communities to only go to the emergency room if it is a true life-threatening emergency.

"What we are experiencing now is not only our COVID volumes have gone up over the last days, we’re also seeing increased volumes of patients for other acute issues (that are) non-COVID and so the combination of those two things is what we’re experiencing now," said Dr. Stan Fuller, the Chief Clinical Officer for the greater Winston-Salem market of Novant Health.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Cone Health, and Novant Health are asking people to consider virtual care, primary care, and urgent care for non-critical needs.

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“If you experience chest pain, trouble moving an arm or leg, trouble speaking, or have a traumatic injury, you should call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency department,” said Dr. Chad Miller, chair of emergency medicine at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “We know that seconds count and even the slightest delay in getting care for heart attacks, strokes, and other true emergencies can lead to life-long disability or death.”

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Conditions such as eye infections, skin problems (minor burns, rashes, and insect bites), cold/flu/allergy symptoms, muscle or joint pain, cuts, or injuries where X-rays may be needed, can best be cared for in doctor’s offices or urgent care clinics, and in many cases, can be triaged or handled entirely through a virtual visit.

“We have folks who often turn to the emergency department because they know we are open and they know we are available," said Dr. Megan Hunt, the Medical Director of the adult emergency department at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. "So I think just for folks trying to figure out the right thing to do to get care, they often come to the emergency department as they know we are the resource that will be available.”

All three hospitals have virtual options for patients to seek care without going into the doctor's office or visiting a hospital. 

"If you’re somebody who (...) is on the fence — do I need to go or not need to go? Contacting a provider through a virtual option will let you know if you truly have to go in right away and what’s the best way that we can get to the best patient care," said Dr. Hunt.

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Patients who come to the emergency department for non-life-threatening injuries can face a wait time of two to three times longer than before the pandemic.

“Those patients that come to the emergency department that had the ability to seek care somewhere else, at times that can be excessive and tax down the emergency department," said Ann Councilman, the Director of Emergency Services with Cone Health.

If you need to get a COVID-19 test at the various testing sites around the triad.

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist

Cone Health

Novant Health