Stop visiting emergency rooms to get COVID tests

Health experts are urging everyone to stop visiting emergency rooms to simply get tested.
Posted at 6:35 PM, Dec 31, 2021
and last updated 2022-01-03 12:24:30-05

MILWAUKEE — Hospitals are stretched thin as COVID cases continue to surge. Health experts are urging everyone to stop visiting emergency rooms to simply get tested.

"We need to cut back on those people who are just coming in for testing. We have testing centers throughout the city throughout the county and now testing centers that will be open throughout the holiday," said Dr. Ben Weston, Milwaukee County Chief Health Policy Advisor.

As of Tuesday in Southeast Wisconsin, data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services shows over 90% of hospital and ICU beds are filled. Health care workers are overwhelmed with the rise in cases coupled with ongoing staffing shortages.

"Workers across the entire state certainly in SE Wisconsin are facing burnout but it's really not so much about feeling burnt out it's about working in a system that doesn't give you what you need to do your job properly," said Jamie Lucas, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.

For nurses like Lucas, he has seen the decline in staffing shortages but now he fears disproportionate ratios of healthcare professionals to patients will exhaust workers.

"Nurses and healthcare workers have been told to do more with less for too long the pandemic is just amplifying this," said Lucas.

Advocate Aurora Health says they've seen a 66% increase in Covid patients in just the last month. At this rate, they've had to pause non-critical and elective procedures due to staffing shortages.

When is the appropriate time to go to an emergency room if you are dealing with symptoms? Dr. Weston weighs in.

"Emergency departments are for if you have an emergency if you're short of breath if you're having chest pain if you have severe symptoms. Not if you have a stuffy nose and you want to get a test to make sure it's not Covid."

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