OLOL asks patients with minor ailments to think twice before heading to ER

Dr. Catherine O’Neal with OLOL is asking the community to think twice before going to the emergency room.
Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Our Lady of the Lake’s Chief Medical Officer made the rounds late Thursday night, not to hospital rooms, but to newsrooms.

Dr. Catherine O’Neal had a message for the Baton Rouge community that she said couldn’t wait. Emergency rooms at OLOL and other hospitals in the Baton Rouge area are packed with patients but not everyone seeking help at an ER needs emergency care.

With the influx of critical COVID patients, the hospital’s resources are stretched then. O’Neal said OLOL needs the community’s help to make sure anyone who needs medical care is getting it in the right place.

“Emergency rooms are really for critically ill patients,” said O’Neal. “When we have room, it doesn’t matter if you have minor symptoms. But today, if you have minor symptoms - ear pain, tooth pain, rash without swelling, a sore throat without a fever, you just need a medication refill - you need to go to an urgent care, you need to go to primary care doctor’s office, which would be ideal.”

O’Neal added if you have minor symptoms, start with your primary doctor’s office for help. However, if you’re unsure if your symptoms qualify as minor or severe, the Lake also offers several hotlines you can call for direction including its COVID hotline to set up a virtual visit at (225)-765-5500 or the Lake’s nurse hotline (225)-765-LAKE (5253).

If there is any good news during what officials describe as the fourth surge, it’s that vaccination rates in the state are increasing. According to the CDC, Louisiana’s vaccination rate is currently higher than the national average. O’Neal said vaccines are key to protecting the vulnerable and preventing more virus mutations that could potentially be more dangerous than the Delta variant which is now the dominate strain.

“It’s so important to be choosing vaccination at this point because otherwise, we’re choosing continued community turmoil, continued death in our families, and that’s just not the right choice anymore,” explained O’Neal.

More than a year after the pandemic first reached Louisiana, O’Neal said she hoped the state would not be seeing yet another surge. However, she said it’s important to keep talking about the pandemic and the dangers that still exist.

“If we want to do this again, if we want to ruin our school season, football season, we can stay unvaccinated. If we want to the win the game as a community, we need to get vaccinated today,” concluded O’Neal.

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