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Emergency rooms are for emergencies

It shouldn’t take the Trumbull County Fire Chiefs’ Association or the county Emergency Management Agency to remind us that if you are encountering a health issue that isn’t an emergency, don’t go to the emergency room.

Even as the number of COVID-19 cases sees steep declines, hospital emergency rooms still remain very busy and, at times, overwhelmed. For some reason, however, residents often think these emergency facilities exist to handle routine or non-emergency matters. Often, residents even think it’s OK not only to go to the ER, but to call an ambulance to transport them in non-emergency situations.

In a recent letter, the Trumbull County Fire Chiefs’ Association president joined with the Emergency Management Agency in asking local fire departments to assist with this issue by suggesting to patients alternatives for nonessential services.

We are certain this issue isn’t unique to Trumbull County. In fact, we suspect it frequently occurs all over our region and the state.

The recent letter came after the fire chiefs’ association president and the Trumbull County Emergency Management Agency director met late last year with local hospitals about patient loads and delays. The fire chiefs’ association president said the hospitals had requested some help to decrease the number of patients being transported to the emergency departments for nonessential services, such as COVID-19 testing and minor problems that can or should be treated at home.

Fire departments were advised that crews can speak to people about what they can do at home to remedy the complaint, or to contact primary care physicians.

Renee Waldo, Vienna Fire Department emergency medical service coordinator / paramedic, said people experiencing nonessential illnesses or injuries should contact their family doctor or go to urgent care instead of calling an ambulance to a hospital where there may be an hour or more wait.

“We recommend that for non-life-threatening symptoms to go to a doctor and not the emergency room. We would never refuse to take anyone, no matter what the concern is, to the hospital — but they have to understand there will likely be a wait.”

Both locally and nationally, emergency rooms this winter have been very busy with COVID-19 and other serious health issues or injuries, she said.

“We have had different waves of periods of longer delays than other times. The omicron variant has created so many problems in January and February,” Waldo said.

Fire officials noted, of course, an ambulance and transport to a hospital absolutely is needed in many situations, such as those involving chest pains, shortness of breath, stroke and any trauma.

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