Earlier we told you about a national health crisis – overcrowded emergency rooms. Now, a local emergency medicine physician helps us understand the best way to get the care you need without becoming part of the problem. 

“It’s very busy,” said Dr. Kerry Ahrens. “Used to be where you’d have slower days, those don’t really happen anymore.” 

Aherns is describing her job as an emergency medicine physician with Aurora BayCare Medical Center. She says while local emergency departments are definitely busy right now, she wouldn’t include Northeast Wisconsin with what’s happening in more urban areas. 

“I wouldn’t say it’s overcrowded,” Ahrens explained. “I mean you go to the E.R. in inner cities, like Chicago, your time wait is 15 hours in some cases before you see a doctor.” 

But Ahrens says there is a common issue with people going straight to the E.R. because of convenience, rather than severity of symptoms. 

“They get upset because they see someone else who got there after they arrived go in before them,” Ahrens described. “I say ‘This isn’t Burger King. This isn’t a wait line where you get what you want right when you want it. There are people who are sicker than you.’” 

Ahrens says the ultimate goal is to get patients the right care, at the right time and in the right place, especially for those who are more susceptible to life-threatening illness; like anyone over the age of 65 with underlying issues. 

“The elderly, those are the ones that belong in the E.R.” Ahrens explained. “If they have chest pain, shortness of breath, a fever. When you have an elderly patient with a fever, they’re far more likely to have sepsis, which is a blood stream infection with bacteria, than a younger child would. They get so much sicker so much faster.” 

As opposed to a younger person with milder symptoms, like a runny nose or cough, who doesn’t necessarily need urgent medical attention. 

“It’s just something to understand. It’s a different level of care provided,” Aherns said. “If you have the sniffles, if you have a cough… that’s an Urgent Care or even your primary care doctor should be able to handle that.” 

Don’t forget video visits are also an option. For example, if you’ve tested positive at home for COVID 19, Aherns says you don’t need a trip to the E.R. to confirm that, even if you want a prescription. 

To learn more, you can find links to video visits, even wait times at aurorabaycare.com/appointments.  You can always just give them a call too: 1-866-938-0035, jot an email: healthwatch@aurorabaycare.Com  or use their LiveWell app.