RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – All three of the major hospital systems in the Triangle are calling for people to stay away from their emergency rooms if they don’t have an emergency.
The quickly increasing number of people with COVID-19 are filling up hospital beds and emergency departments.
“The more patients we have coming in, the longer the waits will be,” said Dr. Linda Butler, chief medical officer at UNC REX Healthcare.
Longer waits are the current reality for people showing up to emergency departments.
At WakeMed, health leaders said of those coming in seeking COVID-related care, about 5 percent are looking for a COVID test and don’t have a true emergency.
“If that’s not what you need right now, then there are many other places where you can seek care,” said Dr. Chris DeRienzo, system chief medical officer at WakeMed Health and Hospitals.
DeRienzo said one in eight seeking COVID-19 care are showing up to the emergency room with no symptoms.
The Triangle’s major hospitals are asking people to reconsider whether they need a visit to urgent care or a primary care doctor before showing up.
With COVID-19 hospitalizations nearly double what they were around Christmas, hospitals are running out room.
“We try and prioritize who needs a bed first and move patients accordingly but it is a daily challenge,” said Butler.
People who have mild or no symptoms are slowing down the line before eventually being sent to the back of the line. Add to this the strain of fewer staff.
“We will always meet the needs but clearly, we cannot be as quick to get to everyone if there are so many patients coming and seeking emergency care,” said Dr. Lisa Pickett, chief medical officer for Duke Health.
WakeMed, Duke, and UNC REX said about 2 percent of staff are out due to infection or exposure to COVID-19.
“It’s not just nurses, physicians, A.P.P’s. It’s everybody who has been exposed or sick who can impact care,” said Butler.
Limited staff means the hospitals are delaying or canceling elective procedures to focus on COVID-19 patients instead.
“We need to and are very careful to not delay something that is emergent or urgent,” said Butler.
At WakeMed, DeRienzo said additional beds are back in the lobby. Pickett said Duke Health is considering bringing back triage tents. The pressure not easing up anytime soon.
“The emergency departments are seeing truly crushing volumes related to COVID,” said DeRienzo.
Leaders will three hospital systems said more than 90-percent of all patients in the COVID ICU are unvaccinated.
All COVID-19 patients on ventilators or ECMO are unvaccinated. It’s why they said making sure you’re vaccinated can help make a difference and help ease the pressure they’re facing.