Local hospitals say ER is waiting longer

Three major hospitals in the region warn that if you need emergency care, there could be longer waiting times.

The reason: A large increase in the number of patients going to the emergency room for mild COVID-19 symptoms, Albany Medical Center, Ellis Medicine and St. Peter’s Health Partners said in a combined advisory. Physician executives advise that patients seeking non-emergency care are likely to have shorter wait times by contacting their primary care physician or by being seen at an urgent care location. The hospitals are among the urgent care companies.

“Between our current hospital admissions rate and the increase in COVID-19 cases, all of our area’s emergency departments are reporting longer wait times for patients seeking care,” said Dr. Steven Hanks, Chief Clinical Officer, Chief Operating Officer and Acting CEO for St. Peter’s Health Partners said in the statement, “We understand that people are frustrated with the longer wait times and ask for their patience and respect for our healthcare providers.”

The hospitals note that last week data from the state health department shows that the Capital Region has the second highest level of COVID-19 cases statewide, and that the number of hospitalizations is also increasing.The region sees 55 people per 100,000 test positive for coronavirus every day on a seven-day average — a number likely lower than actual infections, as many people are testing at home and failing to report the results to county health departments, the hospitals said:

“On Memorial Day weekend and during the summer months, many of us go outside for exercise and activities, and historically these also lead to busy times in our emergency rooms,” says Dr. Dennis P. McKenna, CEO of Albany Med. and chairman. “We will always be there for you, but please reserve the (emergency) ward for the most critical illnesses and injuries.”

With the number of COVID cases on the rise, many people are looking for tests and confirmation that they may or may not have the COVID virus. The community can help keep critical beds open in local hospitals by not going to the emergency department with mild symptoms of illness or for routine testing for COVID, the doctors said.

“Of course, all of our hospitals will treat anyone who walks through our emergency room doors,” said Dr. Michael Trevisani, Chief Medical Officer at Ellis Medicine. “For the patient, the Emergency Department is not always the ideal place for every care requirement.”

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