UAB doctor: Rise in COVID cases causing emergency room surge

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By WVUA 23 News Reporter Aajene Robinson

UAB Hospital is seeing a major increase in patients showing up at their emergency departments wanting a COVID test or treatment for mild COVID symptoms, officials said Wednesday, and that’s clogging up wait times for those with true emergencies.

UAB Department of Emergency Medicine Vice Chair for Clinical Operations Dr. Bobby Lewis said he’s had a firsthand look at how many people are coming in to UAB’s emergency rooms, and UAB isn’t alone in experiencing a surge.

“Because of this, it makes wait times longer, it makes it more difficult for our personnel to do everything that they need to do to get done with every one of the patients that show up,” Lewis said. “Understand even though COVID is what’s driving a lot of the big numbers, we’re still seeing all the usual emergency department type visits such as a heart attacks, strokes and injuries and other sorts of injuries that we see on a day-to-day basis.”

Lewis said he wants to stress that the emergency department is not the best place to get a COVID-19 test.

“Because most emergency departments don’t routinely give COVID tests on asymptomatic patients or patients that don’t need to be admitted and we can’t really do anything for all those minor symptoms that you have such as a stuffy nose, or a sore throat,” Lewis said. “Those things are generally taken care of at a primary care doctors office, or in a clinic, or in one of the free-standing emergency departments.”

Even though they are seeing a lot of COVID patients, the hospital system is doing everything possible to keep patients safe by separating COVID-suspected patients from the rest of the hospital population.

Lewis said that these record high numbers appeared about 10 days ago, mostly because of the omicron variant.

UAB is continuing to urge people to get vaccinated and/or boosted, continue wearing masks, social distance and stay home if they are experiencing any cold-like and/or COVID symptoms.

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