Austin hospitals are asking for discretion in going to emergency rooms as they see an increase in pediatric cases

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin hospitals say they’re seeing more children in emergency rooms with respiratory illnesses and the flu. Now he has the attention of Travis County Judge Andy Brown, who visited Dell Children’s Hospital this week.

“They took me through the emergency room entrance and some other parts of the hospital, and it’s clear that there are a lot of kids going to the emergency room, going to Dell Childrens right now,” Brown said.

Dell Children’s chief medical officer says with the holidays approaching, the hospital doesn’t expect the problem to get better before it gets worse. They ask parents with non-emergencies, if possible, to take their children to a pediatrician or urgent care instead of the emergency room.

“Last year in the emergency room I saw a large number of patients [of] 150 [patients] in 24 hours, now I’m seeing 320, so it’s like double,” said Dr. Meena Iyer, chief medical officer at Dell Children’s.

One Austin mom says sometimes those options aren’t available. She had to take her two-year-old daughter to the emergency room last week with the flu. She said while it was in the middle of the night, she didn’t have to wait very long for care there.

“We’ve had a few incidents, including one with respiratory problems last week, when we tried to contact the pediatrician, but they’re very busy or full and don’t have any available hours for at least a week,” Jennifer said.

She said that even though parents like her don’t want to go to the emergency room, where they have to pay significantly more money for the same care, her pediatrician is often unavailable because of the high demand they see in providing care, she explained.

“People aren’t just trying to avoid the pediatrician because we don’t have insurance. We are trying to get the care we need for sick children who need immediate care. And there’s not enough pediatric care,” she said, adding, “We’re just trying to help our kids live happy, healthy lives.”

“We just have to be careful not to overburden one of our best resources here,” Brown said. Travis and Austin County Public Health is hosting a flu shot clinic Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon at Del Valle High School. The event is free and open to the public.

Urgent Care or Emergency Room?

Dell’s Children’s posted on their Twitter earlier this month with some general guidelines about whether the ER or ER is the best place.

The following can be treated by emergency care, Dell Children’s said:

  • Cold, flu or allergies
  • Sprains and strains
  • Severe sore throat
  • Minor cuts or burns
  • Eye or ear infections
  • Broken bones (wrist, hand, ankle, foot)

Dell Children’s recommends taking your child to the emergency room for the following:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest pain
  • Open fractures
  • Heavy bleeding or burns
  • Extremely high temperature
  • Loss of vision

They added that in an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.

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