UPMC call volume high, but Emergency Room remains open

With an increase in patient volume at UPMC Chautauqua Emergency Department, heath care providers want to reassure the community to continue coming to UPMC if they are in need of treatment.

Dr. Chris Cammarata, medical director at UPMC Chautauqua Emergency Department, told The Post-Journal he is worried a recent news report might have sparked concerns in the community about long wait times at UPMC.

“I think that some people may have interpreted it as we’re trying to tell you not to come to the emergency department,” he said. “I am an emergency physician, and I can tell you that that would never be the case.”

While Cammarata said the emergency department has seen a dramatic increase recently in patient volume. However, he explained the hospital wants to clarify their stance and remind the community that the emergency department continues to be open 24-hours each day.

Cammarata said people should immediately go to the emergency room or dial 911 if they think they have an “acute medical condition.” He encouraged people not to hesitate to come to the emergency room.

Cammarata explained that while the emergency department is certainly intended to address “pressing medical emergencies,” the emergency department is able to “care for everything” if needed.

“At the emergency department level, it’s going to be your highly skilled, highly trained providers with access to multiple specialties and access to advanced imaging,” he said. “We certainly are open and ready to care for people.”

Cammarata also encouraged people to consider express care or urgent care facilities for non-medical emergencies, such as earaches, rashes and common colds. Primary care offices are another option Cammarata suggested for medical appointments such as physical exams, screenings and immunizations.

“There are other options for care,” he said, “and I think maybe that’s where some things get a little misconstrued.”

Cammarata said many insurance plans also cover teleservices that allow patients to make appointments with specialists “via telemedicine.”

Despite the variety of care options in the community, Cammarata said UPMC never wants to discourage people from coming to the emergency department if they need care.

“I don’t want anyone to ever get the impression that we don’t want them to come to the emergency department,” he said. “Even though we’re dealing with volume issues just like everybody else in the country is right now, we’re certainly there and able to care for a wide range of things.”

The influx of patients at the emergency department is a result of an increased volume of RSV and Influenza patients. While Cammarata said the hospital is still seeing COVID-19 cases, it has remained steady and at what he described as a “fairly low level” compared to the peak of the pandemic.

“We’re seeing a huge spike in Influenza A especially, and we’re seeing a lot of RSV,” he said. “This has been a heavy season for both of those, and we’re really just getting into it. This could certainly last for the next few months.”

Cammarata believes the increase in Influenza A and RSV can be contributed to the reality that people have returned to “normal life” and are back to congregating in large numbers. As a result, he is not surprised to see the spread of illnesses increase in the community.


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