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Unnecessary visits crowd Nemours Children’s Hospital Emergency Dept.

The Emergency Dept. at Nemours Children's Hospital
Delaware Public Media
The Emergency Dept. at Nemours Children's Hospital

Wait times at the Nemours Children’s Hospital ER are soaring, putting additional pressure on an already-stressed emergency department.

Many patients come in with flu or COVID-like symptoms that don’t require going to an emergency room - and Nemours wants people to know there are other options to consider before heading to the ER.

Nemours’ Emergency Medicine Division chief Dr. John Loiselle discusses the issue and its impact this week.

Delaware Public Media's Tom Byrne interviews Dr. John Loiselle, chief of the emergency medicine division at Nemours Children's Hospital

Emergency Department visits to Nemours Children’s Hospital in Wilmington have soared in recent months.

There were more than 20,500 visits from August through September. That’s about 250 per day - and they’re still seeing about 200 patients a day in October. This is causing long wait times. Normally, the hospital sees about 130 patient visits daily.

According to Nemours, nearly half of those visits could have been treated elsewhere, including at home.

The hospital expected it would see an uptick during the height of COVID, but emergency department volume was low, about 60 percent of what’s normally seen.

So Dr. John Loiselle, chief of the Emergency Medicine Division at Nemours, says the recent uptick of ER visits is causing more staffing issues than the worst times during the pandemic.

Dr. John Loiselle, chief of the Emergency Medicine Division at Nemours
Dr. John Loiselle, chief of the Emergency Medicine Division at Nemours

“Our staffing was great for that amount of patients and of course we try to staff accordingly to the number of patients we’re seeing,” said Loiselle. “Then to quickly make a transition into something that is two to three times that volume is very difficult and you just can’t suddenly find nurses and physicians who are specialized in emergency medicine to come in and take over that place.”

Loiselle says they will never turn a parent and child away, but it might be better for everyone involved to stay home and monitor their child at first and contact their primary care provider.

“We never tell a parent, never come to the emergency department. If they think their child is sick enough to come to the emergency department, they should do that, but I think that by checking in with the primary care office first, we may save them time and effort and it also saves time and effort for us here.”

Loiselle says urgent care centers are also an option ahead of a hospital emergency department,

But he notes if a child is working particularly hard to breathe or there are signs of dehydration that may warrant an ER visit.

Loiselle adds some parents also feel they can get a COVID test faster at the ER, but that’s not the case. Community locations are usually the better option.

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Tom Byrne has been a fixture covering news in Delaware for three decades. He joined Delaware Public Media in 2010 as our first news director and has guided the news team ever since. When he's not covering the news, he can be found reading history or pursuing his love of all things athletic.