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Ballad Health issues statement on emergency department utilization

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Ballad Health issues statement on emergency department utilization

With novel coronavirus (COVID-19) hospitalizations at record levels, Ballad Health is providing feedback to the communities it serves, intended to optimize healthcare resources for those who need it most. 

Chiefly, if any person believes they are having a life-or-limb threatening emergency, the person should call 911 or get to the closest emergency department. These individuals will be triaged immediately by qualified providers, and they will be provided with a medical screening exam by a qualified provider. If it is determined the individual does not have a life- or limb-threatening emergency, it is highly likely the wait times to be treated will be significant, as the emergency physicians and clinical team prioritize those with the most severe needs. ERs are not first-come-first-served, but rather, patients are prioritized based on medical necessity as determined by qualified physicians and providers.

If an individual has medical needs that are urgent, Ballad Health encourages use of the Ballad Health Virtual Urgent Care Clinic – a telehealth option providing immediate access to care for common illnesses; for example, cold and flu, sinus infections, strep throat, headaches, etc. Learn more about The Virtual Urgent Care Clinic. Additionally, Ballad Health operates a network of 12 Ballad Health Medical Associates Urgent Care Centers in the Appalachian Highlands, all of which treat minor illnesses and injuries without appointments. 

If an individual needs COVID-19 testing, but is not exhibiting symptoms, Ballad Health advises them to utilize any of Ballad Health’s six drive-through testing locations in the region, or any of Ballad Health’s urgent care centers. Other providers can also perform testing, including pharmacies, health departments and other locations throughout the Appalachian Highlands. Locations for testing can be found by Googling “COVID test near me.” 

Anyone who is experiencing symptoms and believes they might have been exposed to COVID-19 is advised to visit U.S. Department of Health & Human Services to find a nearby testing location or call Ballad Health Nurse Connect at 833-822-5523. Appointments are required for all Ballad Health drive-through testing sites. 

Ballad Health strongly advises against using emergency departments for COVID testing and warns the use of ERs for testing will not lead to a faster result. Moreover, Ballad Health encourages everyone to seek the appropriate level of care for their health needs. Emergency departments should be reserved for life- and limb-threatening situations, such as chest pain, severe injuries, difficulty breathing and stroke symptoms. People seeking care for non-emergent or routine healthcare needs could lead to the diversion of critical staffing from other patients who have serious healthcare emergencies requiring attention.

To be clear: Patients experiencing traumas, chest pain, stroke symptoms or other serious health emergencies should come to their nearest emergency room or call 911 immediately. Long wait times and delays to care apply to those with less severe health needs that do not need to be addressed in the emergency department. 

Additionally, there is no substitute for a relationship with, and the regular care provided by, a primary care provider. Many ongoing health needs can be best addressed in a primary care setting, and a preventive care regimen can resolve many health issues before they become emergencies. If a person is in need of a primary care provider and does not currently have one, please contact Ballad Health, and we will be happy to connect these individuals to an appropriate provider. Learn more about how to connect with a primary care provider.

As hospitals throughout Tennessee and the Southeast deal with this COVID-19 surge, many are diverting patients, or refusing to take transfers. Thus, it is critical Ballad Health manage its capacity to ensure people with the most critical needs can access the care they need.

COVID-19 news and updates will continue to be shared to the COVID-19 information page.

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