With Covid-19 cases on the rise, emergency room testing requests are overwhelming hospitals.

Chattanooga's three major hospitals are teaming up to get a message to the public about Covid testing. If you don't have a true emergency, see your primary care doctor.

"We are stretched extremely thin," Dr. Jensen Hyde M.D., Erlanger Health System said.

She said people come to the emergency room with symptoms like a runny nose, cough, or no symptoms at all requesting a Covid-19 test. With the strain on current health care workers, these requests are overwhelming the hospitals.

"People use the ER as their primary care even outside of a crisis situation and so some of that is just a pattern of use as well. We've seen people come to the ER to get pregnancy tests. Not an appropriate use of the resource. But at the same time we took an oath and feel very strongly for taking care of each and every patient that comes through the doors but our ability to do that is very stressed right now," she said.

With hospitals short-staffed and the Omicron variant more transmissible, this current wave of Covid-19 infections is impacting the availability to help other patients in need of ER services.

"The sheer transmissible is a huge challenge because it means that numerically we are still seeing a lot of patients sick enough to be in the hospital which stresses all of the service lines and in particular the emergency department," Dr. Hyde said.

To help reduce some of this strain, local hospitals say to only visit the ER if you are experiencing shortness of breath and other severe symptoms.

"If your oxygen levels are dropping you certainly need to be evaluated in the hospital and then we are seeing a lot of dehydration this time around. So if you get to a point where you can't truly keep down anything, um, certainly if you are not urinating anymore or not able to keep yourself hydrated that could potentially be an indication of hospitalization as well," she said.

If you're having minor symptoms visit your primary care provider or local testing site instead of going to the emergency room.


Alyse Zwick joined the Local 3 News Team in November of 2021. She grew up in Powder Springs, and was Miss New York 2009.

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