Wayne Memorial Hospital is urging people with mild to moderate Covid symptoms to seek medical treatment immediately if their provider believes they need it — and before it becomes a life-threatening condition.
At the same time, the hospital is asking people with non-life-threatening conditions, such as a sprain or urinary tract infection, to seek help at an urgent care or their primary care provider’s office to help reduce wait times in the hospital emergency department (ED).
“The situation at the hospital is critical,” said James Pettinato, incoming chief executive officer. “In the last few weeks, we have been inundated with Covid patients. We are seeing up to 10 Covid patients a day in our ED and treating up to 19 patients daily in our inpatient Covid unit, where the capacity is 21. With patients being admitted and discharged daily, our census is over 21 — and that alone causes an ED backup. Some patients who would be admitted often have to wait until a bed is available.
“Meanwhile, people with less urgent conditions are also being forced to wait in the ED, sometimes as much as six hours, for treatment. This is not how we wish to care for our patients.”
Consider Regeneron early in an infection
Pettinato reiterated that the emergency department is for life-threatening conditions, and Covid can be one of them.
“Covid symptoms can escalate quickly, particularly for the non-vaccinated,” he said. “If you test positive, please confer with your healthcare provider about receiving Regeneron, a monoclonal antibody treatment authorized for emergency use (like the vaccines). It can help prevent more severe symptoms or even a hospital admission.”
Regeneron is usually administered via infusion or subcutaneous injection within 10 days of the onset of symptoms or a confirmed Covid test, whichever comes first.
“We are achieving good results with this outpatient treatment and see it helping to decrease admissions to our inpatient Covid Unit,” Pettinato said. “Regeneron can be administered in under two hours, which includes monitoring afterwards, for either the intravenous or subcutaneous injection.”
Wayne Memorial’s affiliate, Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, began offering Regeneron by appointment only in an outpatient setting this week, rather than referring patients to the emergency department. “If you have Covid, please contact your primary care provider about whether you qualify for Regeneron — the sooner the better,” said Pettinato.
Most urgent care centers, such as Lake Region Urgent Care in Honesdale, a part of Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, have X-ray equipment and can perform minor procedures such as splinting. They also offer lab work, flu vaccines, tetanus and allergy shots, along with tests for rapid strep, mononucleosis, pregnancy, Covid and STDs.
Patients whose conditions are treatable outside of an ER will save time and money, according to Wayne Memorial officials. According to Healthgrades, a company that provides information about physicians, hospitals and healthcare providers, an ER visit costs about $1,300 to $1,400 whereas most urgent care visits cost an average of $150.
“We hope the public understands, we are in a health crisis right now,” Pettinato said. “The pandemic, particularly with the emergence of new variants, is still very much with us.”
The public is reacting to the hospital’s announcement on its Facebook page.
“This is why we need a n f’n hospital or at least an urgent care in Pike,” wrote Nancy Leif. “So I’m gonna die waiting for treatment for all the non vaxxers out there. Disgusting.”
Kristina Young wrote, “Since Oct. 2nd we have lost 29 people from Wayne County to COVID. The first few months of the pandemic up to Dec. 2020 we only lost 12. We only lost 12 when we had no vaccine or treatments. That is why we wore masks and kept thing shut down. I still wear my mask in stores and I just got my booster.”
George Yanakis, wrote, “Where are all these people? Walk inside. It’s a ghost town. WMH should get off the fear mongering track in line with the absurd waste of money PSA’s from PA.”
Nikki Kile wrote, “Oh you mean the urgent cares who won’t take insurance and charge over $100 just to see you. No thanks, I have insurance take my insurance.”
“We hope the public understand, we are in a health crisis right now,” Pettinato said. “The pandemic, particularly with the emergence of new variants, is still very much with us.”