URHCS puts up testing tent after influx in CarePlus Clinic visits, non-emergency trips to ER (Healthy You)

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — An influx of non-emergency visits to the emergency department at United Regional is putting a strain on resources.

Health care providers are encouraging patients to talk with their doctor first before entering the CarePlus Clinic or the ER.

It’s in the name, the emergency department is for emergencies.

“Over the last month about a third of our patients have had minor illnesses, some of them related to COVID symptoms that could’ve waited until the next day to go to their family physician or a clinic,” United Regional ER Nurse Manager Heather Bailey said.

Resources are limited and clogging the system is not the answer.

“When you have a true medical emergency you want those ER providers, staff and those rooms to be available, you want those resources to really be allocated and saved for those true emergencies,” URPG Director of Primary Care and Subspecialty Maria Avalos said.

United Regional officials encourage patients to first reach out to their primary care physician before visiting the CarePlus Clinic on Barnett Road or the emergency department.

“The PCPS know patients’ medicines, medical history, risk factors,” Avalos said. “Many PCPS are doing telemedicine visits, they can do a visit over the telephone and order the test, develop a treatment plan.”

They’re working to keep beds open and resources readily available.

“We’re starting to see our regular patient volumes coming back from the first surge of COVID, but we’re also seeing more covid patients coming in too,” Bailey said.

“We obviously have seen an increase in testing, we are experiencing long wait times,” Avalos said.

Because of this, the testing tent behind the Barnett Road medical building returns. It’s something patients should take advantage of before entering the clinic or hospital.

“We want to try to keep patients who are having COVID symptoms outside of the clinic that just protects the health and safety of our staff, our providers and the other patients that are not experiencing COVID symptoms,” Avalos said. “We have a registration area where they pull up, it’s called curbside testing, they call the number that’s listed, that’s how they register and they drive around to the tent in the back of the building to see a provider.”

The ER is reserved for those in distress. Those with minor symptoms such as loss of taste or smell, slight cough, and sore throat shouldn’t call 911 or make a trip to the emergency department.

“That congests the ER and doesn’t allow for the resources and increases the wait times to be seen for everybody across the board,” Bailey said. “There’s an increase in medical need everywhere, so coming to the emergency room needs to be reserved for true emergency care.”

Reserving space and resources as United Regional works tirelessly to provide essential care.

Because of the current COVID-19 climate, vaccinations at the CarePlus Clinic are now by appointment only. Walk-ins are no longer available. United Regional highly encourages residents to get the vaccine.

Before trying to go to the CarePlus Clinic, if you’re having symptoms, visit the testing tent. It’s open Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. On Saturdays and Sundays, the tent is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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