Hospitals encourage people to use walk-in clinics and primary care when sick

Published: Dec. 21, 2022 at 5:56 PM EST
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AROOSTOOK COUNTY, Maine (WAGM) - When you are sick, the focus is on getting healthy and better. Sometimes staying home and resting is the best, but if you do need medical help, where is the best place to go first? When should you go to the emergency room?

Greg Lafrancois, the CEO from Northern Light AR Gould says, “There’s a lot of options in the county. Before you get to a physician’s office, you know, we have walk-in clinics. Those are a quick way to get eyes on and to get a quick evaluation. We have a virtual walk-in clinic, which is just like this, a zoom call with a physician or a mid-level that can evaluate the patient in their home and they don’t even have to get on the road. And it’s just great because,you have somebody who knows what they’re looking for, talking to you back and forth. It’s not, you know, what is my list of symptoms and maybe I should do something. So those are two great options before you have to go and try to get an appointment with the PCP and certainly as a last resort, the emergency department. But these days, the emergency departments are so busy that the wait would be very long for these type of symptoms.”

Kris Doody, the CEO at Cary Medical Center, says, “One of the things that we’ve seen with some of these symptoms, especially with influenza, is it comes on rather quickly and can be pretty strong. Some of the symptoms that we’ve seen are the sore throat, cough, runny nose, just general malaise, just feeling lousy and it lasts, it lingers. The different options that Greg described are available in the community. You know, call, even call your primary care office. Because I agree with Greg, coming to the ER is going to be a huge delay and that’s really not the location for these type of symptoms. The important thing though is, you know, if a person is ill, whether with a cold or influenza, is to stay home. Stay home, get some rest, stay hydrated, nourish as best as you can. And, you know, we can help treat the symptoms. So, you know, hopefully the symptom control can make you feel a bit better. But some of the influenza that we’ve seen, like with our employees, it’s hit them hard, hit them fast, and they’ve been out for a few days. And the best thing you can do is stay home, take care of yourself, and get some rest.”

Jenn Plant, RN and Chief Nursing Officer at Cary Medical Center says, “A lot of what we are seeing in the ER is people looking for some kind of a confirmation of what they have. So their symptoms are somewhat mild, but they want to know, is this influenza or is it Covid? And kind of how do I structure my life around that? Upwards, according to our ER docs, about 60% of our respiratory patients that we have are coming up with influenza A. But all we’re going to be able to do is treat your symptoms. So a lot of that can be done at home. There’s a lot of patients coming in with various different respiratory problems every day and that really does hold up some time for some really major emergencies coming through and having a spot to be cared for.”

Dr. Stephanie Gillis, Director of Primary Care at Northern Maine Medical Center says, “And I think here at Northern Maine Medical where we don’t have the availability of urgent care as in walk-in clinics, it’s key to call your primary care physician and call their office and we can get you in either in person or virtually and get you seen. We can also help do some of that testing, like Jen was mentioning, to determine is this RSV? Is this Covid? Is this flu? How do we best treat? Are there treatment options that are prescriptions or is it all supportive care and over the counter? How long should you quarantine? How long do you need to isolate from other people to help prevent the spread of infection? Which is also key right now. And then of course, if you are having difficulty keeping down fluids, if you’re having difficulty with your breathing, feeling short of breath, you can’t catch your breath. If you’re feeling dehydrated and not having your normal urine output or having significant diarrhea or vomiting, high fevers that you can’t get down with medications, any of those would be indications to get in and be seen. But again, I’ll say the same thing everyone else has said. We really want to try to reserve those ER visits to true emergencies and try to handle the most that we can in the outpatient clinics. And I think that’s what all of us felt during Covid and we’re feeling the same right now. There are some things that we can do and things that we can offer, but always starting with that call to primary care in our location or urgent care or walk-in is a great place to start.”