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Patients with mild symptoms making long ER wait times at Univ. of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics

Published: Nov. 17, 2021 at 7:30 AM CST
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Doctors at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say too many people are coming into their emergency room when they could get care faster at an Urgent Care clinic.

They’ve noticed more people with cold and flu symptoms like fevers and cough coming to the ER.

By law, emergency rooms can’t turn away anyone who comes in for care, which contributes to long wait times. But clinics which have shorter wait times can refer patients to the ER if needed.

“It can be hours, which is terrible for the patients because they feel bad, and they’re sitting waiting,” Chief Medical Officer with UIHC Dr. Theresa Brennan said. “But in an emergency room, unlike a quick care or an urgent care, where you have such a varied spectrum of how sick patients are, the sickest always go first.”

UIHC also says they’re already seeing more flu patients this year, even though flu activity is currently low in Iowa.

They warn this year won’t be mild.

“These viruses are just making people feel terrible,” Dr. Brennan said. “And, you know, the fevers are real. And they feel like they really need to be seen. We would say that probably the fastest way for them to be seen, and equally as good, would be to use a quick care, or if they have symptoms that might require an x-ray or for non-respiratory virus illness like they have a cut that may have stitches, or they may need some IV fluids or some treatment that you can’t really get at your primary care doctor’s office or quick care, that would be a place to go to urgent care.”

Dr. Brennan said all of those facilities can also test for COVID if a patient has symptoms or known exposure.

She added that if someone doesn’t know what level of care they need, it’s best to call ahead to a clinic or the ER. They will be able to direct you where to go based on your symptoms and medical history.

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