Don't use ER for COVID-19 testing, hospitals urge

Hospitals are urging the public to not use emergency departments for routine COVID-19 tests amid rising COVID-19 hospitalizations and crowded facilities. 

"We are running into a lot of problems with patients coming into the emergency department simply for testing," said Mark Spanier, MD, medical director of the ED at Baptist Health Lexington (Ky.). "If you show up for routine testing, you'll be delaying care of other patients," he said during a Jan. 11 call with reporters, the Louisville Courier Journal reports. 

The Minnesota Hospital Association in a Jan. 5 tweet wrote, "Looking for a COVID-19 test? Visiting an emergency room is inefficient and can lead to unnecessary and dangerous spread of illness. Instead, find a community testing site near you." 

Health officials in Kentucky also directed the public to community testing sites, noting that they're free, while tests conducted at the ER may not be. 

"You don't want an ER bill if you don't need an ER bill," Roger Humphries, MD, chair of the emergency medicine department at UK HealthCare in Lexington, told the Courier Journal.

 Hospitals in Wisconsin and Texas have issued the same reminder. 

Emergency departments across the U.S. are experiencing heavy volumes for both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 related care, creating lengthy wait times and prompting the pleas from healthcare providers to reserve ED use for the treatment of urgent conditions. 

"If your [COVID-19] symptoms are mild, please get tested elsewhere," said Todd Gilbert, director of emergency services at St. Joseph Hospital in Lexington. "If you are experiencing severe symptoms, we are more than happy to treat you," he told the Courier Journal. 


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