Elizabethtown Community Hospital
Elizabethtown Community Hospital (ECH) wants the public to know that while they’re always delighted to see you, residents with non-life threatening medical situations should first visit their primary care physicians before taking potentially costly trips to the emergency room.
“When in doubt, call your general practitioner,” said Jane Hooper, ECH’s Director of Community Relations.
According to emergency department staff, ECH sees a significant number of patients with dental pain, colds and stomach aches in their emergency department. Hooper said that while some of these may cause severe discomfort, they could often be better handled by primarily care physicians.
The issue arises when the emergency department is busy with emergent situations — issues like traffic accidents, heart attacks and traumatic injuries, for example — and staff is occupied with caring for those patients. People with non-emergent situations may end up waiting longer than they are comfortable with.
“It’s not unusual to have someone with a cold make their way to the emergency department in the middle of the night,” said Julie Tromblee, RN, director of patient services. “In those situations, staff offers suggestions to help alleviate the symptoms and works to refer patients to a primary care physician.”
Other examples include minor cuts that require several stitches, ear infections and sprains, the latter of which is particularly common in the region because of the community’s “fix-it-yourself” ethic paired with the grueling wintertime weather.
“If you have an injury like that, and it’s normal business hours and there isn’t an underlying condition involved, start by calling your general practitioner and get their advice,” said Hooper.
“Primary care is the cornerstone of good medical care,” added Mary Glickman, medical director of Smith House Health Center in Willsboro. “There are so many conditions that, if properly and consistently managed by patients and their physician, complications may never occur, keeping that patient out of the emergency room. This also holds true for some minor, non life-threatening emergencies.”
Hooper said ECH encourages everyone to establish a primary care physician.
“Each of the hospital’s community-based health centers is currently accepting new patients,” she said, “and each center owned by the hospital leaves space in its appointment calendar for situations that may require more immediate attention, such as a wound requiring stitches, ankle sprain or a child with a potential ear infection.”
The four health centers are located in Westport, Wilmington, Willsboro and Elizabethtown.
Hooper said more Americans are using hospital emergency departments because they face long waits for appointments with their physician and limited after-hours options.
Many studies have found the cost of treating non-emergent conditions in the emergency department is significantly higher than in other settings, which can increase patients’ out-of-pocket costs and add avoidable spending to the nation’s health care bill.