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As ERs see a spike in wait times, there are ways to avoid a non-emergency trip to the hospital

Hospitals nationwide are experiencing longer than usual wait times in their emergency rooms. Part of it is due to the recent COVID-19 surge.

MACON, Ga. — Coliseum Medical Centers is one of five Central Georgia hospitals currently in the red zone, meaning the wait to get into the emergency room is severely overcrowded. 

One hospital leader says they're looking for ways to cut down on that.

Just weeks after Coliseum Medical Centers reached zero positive COVID-19 patients, that number is slowly creeping back up with a national surge.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Corbi Milligan says that's not the only reason you may have a longer wait in the emergency room than usual.

"The average time here at Coliseum from door to greet by a medical care professional is about 10 minutes. At that time, a medical screening exam is done to determine the what level of care is required or basically how sick someone is," said Milligan.

She says there's a good chunk of people getting delayed care, months too late.

"When the pandemic first began almost a year and a half ago, we saw very low volumes in our emergency departments except for COVID patients. There was a period of time where people were afraid to seek health care and afraid to go to healthcare facilities, hospitals, maybe doctors offices," she said.

Now, it's the opposite.

More people are coming in to see doctors, and when there's an overflow, Milligan says they bring in more chairs and start putting people in beds in the hallway to accommodate them.

She adds they are also seeing people people check into the emergency room for non-emergency situations when they should speak to a primary care physician instead.

"If you're uncertain if what you're experiencing is an emergency, most doctors offices have after hours numbers that you can call. There's telehealth that's available through multiple medical providers as well as some of the insurance carriers," said Milligan.

Milligan says there are also nurses who are constantly walking around the waiting room making sure patients are updated and they're comfortable. 

If you have time to look it up before you go, you can check the average wait time for the Coliseum Medical Center ER by going to the homepage of the health system website.