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When to go to an urgent care vs the emergency room

UAB Hospital - Highlands Emergency Room entrance
UAB Hospital - Highlands Emergency Room entrance(WBRC)
Published: Sep. 2, 2021 at 12:04 AM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - Health leaders urged the community to not overload emergency rooms with non-emergency issues as they are filled up across the state.

Alabama’s hospitals and ERs were very busy with COVID-19 patients as cases surged and needed help for the community to make sure there were enough resources to help those who were truly in need of emergency care.

Urgent Care is for sickness or injury, meaning the issue is something your primary provider can handle, but you need an immediate appointment.

Deputy state health officer Dr. Karen Landers said your primary care provider and urgent care should be your first choice if your problem doesn’t fall into certain categories.

“You go to the emergency room for life, limb, or sight. By that, I mean life-threatening or life-altering type symptoms. If you’re having symptoms of stroke, if you’re having severe chest pain, you can’t breathe, those are factors that are very clear,” Dr. Karen Landers said.

Using the emergency room for non-emergencies creates longer wait times. WBRC has gotten reports of people waiting for more than 8 hours to be seen.

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