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Public urged to not use ER for non-urgent health issues during winter weather conditions and flu season

Tri-County Health Office advises not using ER for non-urgent health issues,
especially during current severe weather conditions and annual flu season

The Tri-County Health Officer is cautioning that people with non-urgent health conditions may face long waits at hospital emergency departments across the Portland metro area. The public should know that emergency departments have been unusually busy for several days and that those with non-urgent issues should consider seeking care from a primary care provider or urgent care.

People with urgent, serious or life-threatening conditions are continuing to receive the care they need,’’ said Dr. Paul Lewis, Health Officer for Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

However, unprecedented numbers of patients reporting to area hospitals and high ambulance volume are causing in longer-than usual waits and for ambulances to be directed to more distant destinations than typical.

Several factors are contributing to the backup. First, the number of people who have already been admitted to area hospitals is high. Having so many people receiving in-patient care slows the ability of emergency department staff to move patients out of the emergency department and into an in-patient bed. Second, Dr. Jon Jui, the Multnomah County Emergency Services Medical Director, said there has also been a pent-up demand for care due to the recent three-day holiday weekends, eight days of severe weather, and the annual flu season.

“No one will be turned away from hospital,’’ Dr. Lewis said. “But if you or a loved one have a non-urgent matter, please consider visiting an urgent care office or your own provider before heading to the ER.”