Health Tips Tuesday: when to visit urgent care instead of the E.R.

If you become sick or injured should you go straight to your emergency room or urgent care?
Published: May. 31, 2022 at 9:14 AM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2022 at 10:03 AM EDT
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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) - If you become sick or injured, should you go straight to your emergency room or urgent care?

Western Mass News sat down with Dr. Mark Kenton, Medical Director of the Emergency Department at Mercy Medical Center, to learn more.

What are the circumstances you should go to the E.R. if you become ill?

Kenton: “The biggest reasons are weird chest pains, severe bleeding, deep cuts, things of that nature. Any type of shortness of breath, you’d want to seek emergency care at that point in time.”

What are the services urgent care can provide compared to the E.R.?

Kenton: “You know, we’re very fortunate that, in this area, we do actually have many outstanding urgent cares that are very qualified. You know, most of the time, I think urgent cares...really, the best time to go there would be for things like sprains or strains, sore throats, ear aches, some very basic eye issues. You know, I think those are more appropriate to be seen in an urgent care setting versus chest pain, stroke-like symptoms that need bigger work-ups in emergency departments like CT scans and things of that nature.”

What are the conditions or illnesses that would better constitute going to urgent care than the E.R.?

Kenton: “If you have had a sore throat for a couple days, something of that nature, basic colds where you might have a little bit of a mild cough and want to get checked out but don’t feel short of breath, that would be something I feel like an urgent care would be a good setting, but if you’re feeling things like shortness of breath and you’re winded when you’re walking, if you’re getting chest pains when you’re walking, those would be more of the high important things we would want to see. You know, sometimes things of nausea, some GI symptoms would be good to go to an urgent care for, but if you’re having severe bowel pain., we’d want to see you at the emergency department to allow surgical pathology for example.”

“I think our ER lives have been very interesting over the last couple of years. We initially saw a decrease because of COVID. We told people to stay home from going to the hospital. We kind of wondered where the strokes went, where the heart attacks went, where the appendicitis went and then, as we started to get control of COVID, we started to see that patient volume come back to the emergency department. I think that we have many outstanding primary physicians in this area but, unfortunately, we don’t have enough primary care physicans. So many times, patients have to reach out to urgent care or an emergency department to seek the help they need because they may not be able to get an appointment with their primary care physician that same day when they feel the need to be evaluated, so I think it’s a matter of sometimes a lack of potential resources, as far as where people can go, and just understanding what each place can handle. Like I said, we have outstanding urgent cares in this area, but based on your symptoms, you might be better off being seen at an emergency department than at an urgent care facility.”