Avoid local emergency rooms for mild illness, health department urges

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The Marion County Public Health Department on Tuesday urged people with mild illness symptoms to avoid seeking care at the county’s hospital emergency departments to prevent the facilities from becoming overwhelmed with patients.

The hospitals have reported a surge in patients, placing many of them at capacity, the health department said. Most of the patients are sick with respiratory illnesses including flu, COVID-19 and respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

“This increase is causing a strain on the health care system and can result in longer wait times in emergency departments as patients with more severe symptoms receive priority treatment,” the health department said.

The health department and the Indianapolis Coalition for Patient Safety recommend that people consider using telehealth options, urgent care sites or pharmacy-based clinics if symptoms are mild.

People with significant symptoms such as shortness of breath, high fevers or difficulty breathing are encouraged to still seek care in the emergency department, the department said.

In late December, hospitals in the county implemented temporary visitor restrictions that included no visitors under 18 or those experiencing illness symptoms. Those considering visits are urged to check the hospital’s website or call the facility in advance to learn more about specific restrictions or any exceptions.

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