Cook Children’s Experiencing Extreme Number of Patients, Resulting in Longer Wait Times
Seasonal illnesses are in full swing and hitting Cook Children’s at an unusually high rate. The medical center is under a ‘Facility Alert’ due to an extremely high census.
On Monday, Nov. 18, our staff saw 567 patients in the emergency room, which is equivalent to a patient checking in every 2.5 minutes for 24 hours straight. That’s nearly double the number of patients we typically see in the ED.
What’s causing the high census rate?
Hospitals across Dallas/Fort Worth and the state are experiencing similar situations right now due to a variety of bugs making their way around the region. Respiratory illnesses like RSV and croup are being seen in high numbers. We’re also seeing the first wave of flu cases, along with a range of gastrointestinal illnesses.
What does this mean for you?
If you’re planning to come to Cook Children’s Emergency Department with non-emergent issues, be prepared to wait.
“If your child is experiencing cough, fever or vomiting, you should contact your primary care physician first to make sure the ED is the right place to take your child,” said Corwin Warmink, M.D., medical director of Cook Children’s Emergency Department. “Wait times are going to be much higher than normal, and patients may have to wait several hours to be seen if they are not suffering from a life-threatening emergency.”
If you are going to the ED, please limit the number of people you bring with you (if possible).
“The waiting room at the emergency department is so full that Cook Children’s staff have brought out folding chairs to accommodate as many people as possible,” said Dr. Warmink. “We are working as quickly as we can to get patients into rooms, while still providing quality medical care to each child. We know it’s frustrating for families to be stuck in the waiting room, but we ask for patience.”
Also, be aware that anyone who comes into the ED is at a high risk of being exposed to and contracting an illness. The following groups of people have the highest risk of infection:
- Pregnant women
- Infants and young children particularly under age 2
- People of any age with certain chronic health conditions (including asthma or lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or some neurological conditions).
- People with severely compromised immune systems.
What other options are there besides the Emergency Department?
“If your child is over 3 months old and has a fever, even a high one, it’s OK to see your pediatrician as long as they are breathing comfortably and drinking well,” said Diane Arnaout, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Forest Park. “If your child has mild wheezing, we can give breathing treatments in the primary care offices. If you’re not sure whether your child’s issue is an emergency, our nurses can talk to you over the phone about symptoms and help you decide between the ER, urgent care and a primary care visit.”
Cook Children’s has seven urgent care locations that provide services that are both convenient and comfortable for your child during the evenings and on the weekends, including two brand new locations in west Fort Worth and Prosper. Many of these locations are also experiencing a high number of patients, but not nearly as high as the emergency department.
If you’re not sure whether your child’s issue can be seen at an urgent care, click here to see a quick list of conditions and where to go for each.
What else should parents know?
The best way to keep yourself and your child out of the emergency room with seasonal illnesses is to wash your hands frequently. This means before, during and after preparing food, before eating, after using the restroom, after blowing your nose or sneezing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds, or hum the ‘Happy Birthday’ song from beginning to end twice. This will greatly reduce your chance of getting sick and spreading bugs to others.
And if you haven’t already done so, get your flu shot! It’s not too late, in fact, flu season is just beginning to ramp up. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu and reduce the risk of hospitalizations and deaths.