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Health experts ask Iowans to visit urgent care clinics for less pressing concerns

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Natalie Krebs
/
IPR File
Health care experts are urging Iowans with less pressing medical concerns to consider going to an urgent care clinic instead of the emergency room.

Health officials are urging Iowans to consider visiting an urgent care clinic instead of the emergency room if they have a less pressing medical concern this winter.

The message comes as COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state remain high, and the state is seeing high rates of respiratory virus infections and flu cases this winter.

COVID-19 hospitalizations have passed 800 in December, an amount last seen in Iowa a year ago, once again putting additional pressure on the state's health care system and workers.

Theresa Brennan, the chief medical officer for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, said she's urging people who have issues like ear infections or diarrhea to consider going to an urgent care clinic instead.

"Urgent care is a great place to go when you might need stitches, or you might need an X-ray or you might need some minor lab tests or you might need some IV fluid," she said. "I mean really reserving the emergency room for a place where you, you really need some emergency care.

Brennan said the emergency room should be reserved for those with experiencing serious health events, while urgent care is for people who need to be seen for a medical issue to get treatment but who don't need ongoing care.

"The emergency room should be really reserved for those that are the most ill," she said. Those that are having really, more major illnesses — strokes, heart attacks, major traumas, head injuries."

Brennan said those who are concerned about a respiratory virus infection and go to an urgent care clinic will have their breathing and oxygen levels assessed and will be sent to the emergency room, if necessary.

But she said most of the time, the infection can be treated at the urgent care clinic.

Natalie Krebs is IPR's Health Reporter