IU Health asks parents to rethink COVID-related ER visits

Dr. James Bien said more often than not, it's not an actual emergency.

Posted: Sep 16, 2020 6:13 PM
Updated: Sep 16, 2020 6:18 PM

LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) -- A Lafayette doctor has taken action to fix a reoccurring problem at IU Health Arnett Hospital.

He said students are coming into the emergency department with COVID symptoms after being sent home from school.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. James Bien said more often than not, it's not an actual emergency.

"We are starting to see people show up in our emergency department with non-emergent concerns, even not an illness concern," Bien explained.

Bien said there's been an increase of students being seen for COVID symptoms, and it's happening once they're sent home from school.

"It slows down the process for people who have other concerns," he added.

Bien said it's been happening multiple times a day since school started.

"It puts additional pressure on our ability to care for people that really have emergent concerns," said Bien.

Most of the time, he said the patients are wanting to be tested for COVID-19, but that's not something offered in the emergency department.

"Doctor's notes, routine testing are best handled in other formats," explained Bien.

To stop the problem before it got worse, Bien sent a letter to all local schools. He said it was to educate staff and parents on what to do if you suspect your child might have the virus.

That includes contacting your primary care physician first, especially if it's not an actual emergency.

"I believe the only way we would suggest they go to the ER is if it's a very severe case," said Lafayette School Corporation Superintendent Les Huddle. "Hopefully they wouldn't come to school with that anyway."

Huddle said, ultimately, it's up to the parent.

"An appropriate adult will come and get them, and then that parent can make that decision," added Huddle.

Bien said if you do decide to bring your child in, and they aren't in distress, you might be there for a while.

"More intense issues get seen before those do, and so you end up waiting," said Bien.

News 18 also reached out to the Tippecanoe and West Lafayette Schools about the letter.

Superintendent Rocky Killion said he's not aware of it, but the district is following CDC guidelines.

TSC said they encourage families to call their primary care physician if a child has symptoms - not to go to the ER.

Franciscan Health Lafayette said if someone has mild symptoms or may have been exposed to COVID, it is important to call a primary care physician, urgent care or testing site.

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