Hospital emergency departments are struggling to keep up with an increasing number of patient visits, and they’re asking people to seek help from primary care providers and reserve the emergency room for true emergencies.
At PeaceHealth Southwest, the ER’s monthly visits crept up from an average 167 per day in March to 209 per day in June, according to spokesperson Randy Querin.
“Our medical center (as well as all others in the Pacific Northwest) has been seeing high patient volumes for quite a few weeks, resulting in some longer than typical wait times in the Emergency Department depending on the hour of the day,” Querin wrote in an email to The Columbian. “We will always provide immediate care to those who are facing life-threatening medical situations. Patients who are experiencing unexpected minor medical issues that are causing discomfort but not danger may expect longer wait times.”
Besides the heat wave, the patient volume is due to people delaying regular health screenings and preventative care during the pandemic, as well as delaying needed care, said Debra Carnes, spokesperson for PeaceHealth.
“More people are on our highways and resuming life’s normal activities. Additionally, it’s summer where we see an increase in traumas with people swimming, boating, biking and enjoying outdoor activities. And, this recent record-recording heat wave has also contributed to increases in patient volume.”
On Monday, when the heat was at its peak, PeaceHealth Southwest saw 234 emergency patients.
A joint statement from local hospitals, including OHSU Health, Kaiser Permanente, Legacy Health, and Providence Health & Services, asked people to “check in with primary care providers about your urgent health care needs – or visit the nearest urgent care clinic” unless you are experiencing a “true emergency.”