Emergency room or urgent care? Here’s what to know about where to go

SPOKANE, Wash.– Hospitals across the Inland Northwest are straining their resources to keep up with the current omicron surge.

Nearly every hospital in Washington is using some form of crisis staffing standard. That means staffing ratios are tighter or workers are being moved to clinical areas that haven’t been used before. It’s something healthcare providers don’t want to do but are making work to give high-quality care.

“We’re trying to move as quickly as we can back to contingency and ultimately too conventional as quickly as we can and only targeted use of the CDC’s level that has been described as crisis staffing levels,” said Dr. Michael Myint, the Physician Executive for Population Health at MultiCare Health System.

One thing that’s making it harder to get people care is the number of patients going to the emergency room when they could get help somewhere else first.

Here’s where you should start when it comes to finding the right care for your family:

Urgent Care

Urgent care is for illness or injuries that aren’t immediately life-threatening but need to be treated right away.

  • Flu or cold symptoms
  • COVID-19 testing
  • Earaches
  • Minor burns and bruises
  • Simple wounds or abrasions
  • Sore throats
  • Minor fractures or sprains
  • STIs or STDs
  • Rash or skin concerns
  • Urinary tract infections
  • Virtual urgent care

Emergency room

The emergency room is for any medical condition or injury that threatens your life or limb. It’s the best option when immediate medical attention is needed.

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loss on consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Severe allergic reactions
  • Severe burns
  • Severe skin infections
  • High fever with headache
  • Persistent dizziness
  • Severe dehydration.

You can’t find vaccines or COVID tests in the emergency room, which people are coming in to find. They’re already dealing with high patient loads, and seeing people who shouldn’t really be at the ER backs up how fast they’re able to take care of other people.

“Both our ER’s and the Providence ER’s — we’re challenged, and the more patients that come in for minor things, you’re going to wait longer and longer because we still are getting the car accidents and the heart attacks and the strokes,” said Greg Repetti, the President of MultiCare Deaconess and Valley Hospital. “All those other patients that are going to take priority over the person who has mild Covid symptoms.”

On Wednesday, Multicare’s Valley Hospital saw 140 patients. Normally, they’d care for around 115 people a day.

“Our volumes have been really big. About 20 percent more than our normal day in the emergency rooms is what we’re seeing,” he added.

People are coming in with mild COVID or flu-like symptoms they can treat at home or speak with a primary care physician about. Repetti encourages always calling your primary care doctor first and talking over the situation or symptoms with them. You should still absolutely go to the hospital with chest pain, any stomach or abdominal pain, or suicidal ideologies. The hospitals aren’t turning people away and want you to receive essential, critical care.

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