Hospitals say ER waiting times have increased due to COVID-19 surge
Wait times in emergency rooms and urgent cares across New Jersey are higher than normal during this COVID-19 winter surge.
Medford resident Wendy Pernas says her son waited hours late Wednesday night at Virtua Voorhees to be seen after having trouble breathing due to an asthma attack.
"They did kind of assess him a little bit and then he sat down in the ER. Like I said, that was like midnight and then they actually didn't even take him back. It was four in the morning," Pernas explained. "And then I think it was close to 6 a.m., 6:30 a.m. when the doctor finally came in and the doctor apologized profusely."
Dr. Reginald Blaber, EVP and chief clinical officer of Virtua Health, said the emergency room has been busy.
MORE: Search for a Cure
COVID RESOURCES: COVID-19 vaccine resources and case data
"We are being inundated in both our emergency departments and our urgent cares for people both symptomatic and asymptomatic who want to be tested, and in the emergency department, it's creating a great deal of congestion," Blaber said.
There was a similar problem at AtlantiCare, with wait times increasing due to residents showing up to get tested for COVID-19.
"The emergency department should not be used as an alternative testing site," said AtlantiCare chairman of emergency services Dr. Thomas Brabson.
"It takes time to actually bring someone back from the waiting room, triage them, do their vitals, do the test and then wait for the test to return, which can take up to several hours, and so you're sitting in the emergency department taking up a really valuable bed from someone who might be much sicker than you," Blaber said.
Brabson urges for one to only go to the emergency room if they're experiencing distress.
"Somebody should come to the emergency department when they're feeling short of breath, or having any chest pain, they're having any difficulty breathing, or they're lightheaded, or dizzy, or feel like they're going to pass out," Brabson says.
Otherwise, if you have mild symptoms, health professionals say assume you have COVID-19, quarantine and find a testing site.
Virtua Health says it's in the process of opening a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the next week, but it did not have the date of when it will open just yet.
SEARCH FOR A CURE: Statistics and State Resources