‘We’re all stretched to the limit’: Local emergency rooms facing long wait times

Emergency Room
WISC-TV/ Channel3000.com

MADISON, Wis. — Health care workers have been under tremendous stress since the start of the pandemic, and thanks to the latest COVID-19 surge some emergency rooms are extremely busy.

Dr. Kyle Martin — Medical Director of Emergency Services at SSM St. Mary’s — said the health care provider has seen all-time records and long wait times at emergency rooms throughout south-central Wisconsin.

“As the pandemic grew, obviously we then saw more COVID patients. Most recently we’re seeing a mix,” Dr. Martin said. “And it’s a mix of a surge in COVID patients that we’re seeing right now with the delta variant, combined with just all the bread-and-butter, run of the mill type of things that we typically see year in and year out in the ER, so it’s really that additive effect.”

Doctors will still treat you no matter what, but some needs can be addressed by other resources. COVID-19 testing is widely available through many local public health departments and pharmacies; primary and urgent care are also good options for mild runny noses, aches and other lesser symptoms.

RELATED: ‘Better safe than sorry’: When to get a COVID test, even if vaccinated

While not every symptom requires a trip to the ER, Dr. Martin said there are some that generally mean one is warranted.

“If you’re too weak to stand, too weak to move around, those are indications you might have to be admitted for your symptoms,” Dr. Martin said. “But if it’s more, you know a lot of what we’re seeing is sore throat and runny nose, congestion, those kinds of things, most likely you don’t need the ER.”

Healthy habits and addressing symptoms early can also help with avoiding a trip to the ER. Dr. Martin said that’s why regular visits with a primary care physician are so important.

“We’re all stretched to the limit and if you’ve done that for 18 months, then that really starts to take its toll, for sure,” Dr. Martin said. “But we’ve got a great team.”