Feeling sick? Here's when doctors say to visit the emergency room

Amanda Aguilar Image
Friday, November 18, 2022
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A surge in respiratory illnesses is causing hospitals across the country to fill up with patients, including in the Central Valley.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A surge in respiratory illnesses is causing hospitals across the country to fill up with patients, including in the Central Valley.

"The hospital is a busy place," said Dr. Jeffrey Thomas

"We are full," shared Dr. Eugene Egerton.

If you visit an emergency room in the Valley, expect there to be a wait.

"Emergency rooms have to address the severity of illness, not necessarily first come-first serve" said Dr. Egerton, Saint Agnes Chief Medical Officer. "So if you are not in one of the sicker categories, you'll wait longer to be served."

Saint Agnes Medical Center is seeing an influx of flu and RSV cases, as well as COVID.

"We had an inkling that we would be seeing an earlier onset, so we were able to use the lessons that we learned through COVID to become quick and agile in terms of accommodating the patients," Dr. Egerton said.

While hospitals are full, adjustments are being made.

Community Regional Medical Center is prepared to repurpose space to accommodate more patients. They're also checking out patients as soon as they walk in the door to determine who needs hospital care.

"We actually put a doctor out, essentially, in the waiting room, and they're doing those assessments much earlier than you would see in a normal emergency room environment. We're ordering tests on patients that haven't quite been admitted to the emergency department yet," explained Dr. Thomas, CRMC Chief Medical and Quality Officer.

To help reduce crowded waiting rooms, doctors suggest self-evaluations before heading out your door.

"The emergency department is kind of a landing spot for people that need hospital beds," said Dr. Thomas.

Doctors suggest taking over-the-counter meds if you're feeling sick, but it isn't interfering with your daily activities. If that's not helping or you aren't able to find any, call your physician or visit an urgent care.

"Most of respiratory illnesses, minor aches and pains, sprains, those things -- those conditions can be handled very easily in an urgent care setting and you won't have to wait as long," Dr. Egerton said.

If someone is ill with a shortness of breath or an underlying health condition, doctors said an emergency visit is necessary.

Valley hospitals expect to be busy with respiratory illnesses through April.