Hospitals Urge Residents with Mild Illness to Avoid Hospital Emergency Departments

Marion County hospitals are urging people with mild illness symptoms to avoid seeking medical care in emergency departments after reporting a surge of patients, placing many facilities at capacity. Most of the patients are sick with respiratory viruses including flu, COVID-19 and RSV.

This increase is causing a strain on the healthcare system and can result in longer wait times in emergency departments as patients with more severe symptoms receive priority treatment.

Virginia A. Caine, M.D., director and chief medical officer of the Marion County Public Health Department, says critical emergency department resources at the hospitals should be reserved for the sickest individuals experiencing a medical emergency.

The Marion County Public Health Department along with the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety offer the following recommendations for people seeking medical care:

  • Consider accessing primary care, urgent care or pharmacy-based clinics if symptoms are mild (sore throat, cough, low grade fever).
  • Check with your medical provider or local hospital website to determine what alternatives may be available such as telehealth or online care options.
  • Wash hands frequently especially before eating, after using the restroom, and after coughing or sneezing. Be sure to cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in the home like doorknobs, toilet handles, faucets and light switches.
  • Stay home from work if you have symptoms and keep kids home from school when they are sick.  
  • Get vaccinated.  Vaccines are available for all three of these respiratory viruses – flu, COVID-19 and RSV – and it is not too late. These viruses will circulate for several weeks. In fact, flu often does not peak until late February or March.

Following these options can make a difference and allow for the sickest patients to access care more quickly.

A person with significant symptoms including shortness of breath, high fevers, or difficulty breathing is encouraged to still seek care in the emergency department.

Hospitals in Marion County recently implemented temporary visitor restrictions to better protect patients, staff and other visitors from the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. Anyone planning to visit a patient in the hospital should consult the facility’s website or call ahead to get details about its current visitor restrictions. 

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