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Metro doctors give advice on when to seek treatment in ER, urgent care or primary care physician

If a person is experiencing a chronic condition or has a cold, they should visit their primary doctor first, Dr. Joseph McGargill told Local 5.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Longer than normal wait times in the ER and Urgent Care is an issue metro doctors are noticing and expecting to increase this holiday season

"Volumes are up across both our primary care clinics, as well as urgent cares as well as the emergency department," said Dr. Nicole Gilg Gachiani, chief physician quality officer at Broadlawns Medical Center.

And Dr. Joseph McGargill, who practices family medicine at MercyOne, said the volumes and wait times are up at Mercy too.

"Those can range in the emergency room from one, to even at peak times to eight hours," he said. "And in the urgent cares, they can range from no wait times to sometimes an hour depending on peak times."

UnityPoint is also experiencing a similar situation at its facilities.

But, McGargill said wait times are only expected to rise. 

"We do see a lot more traffic in the emergency room and urgent cares during the holidays."

The current increase in wait times is a combination of a lack of medical staff and people going to the wrong facility to seek treatment. 

"That can really slow down our health system," McGargill said.

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If someone goes to the ER having a heart attack but all of the rooms are full of people who have minor conditions, it pushes back the wait for the person having a heart attack to be seen by a doctor. 

If a person is experiencing a chronic condition or has a cold, they should visit their primary doctor first, McGargill told Local 5.

If a person is experiencing abdominal pains, has minor cuts that require stitches or headaches, that person should go to urgent care. 

McGargill noted people should visit the ER when they are having trouble breathing, having a stroke or stroke-like symptoms or have severe wounds. 

And to reduce wait times at the ER this Thanksgiving and Christmas, MercyOne plans to do something they have never done before. 

"We're going to open up one or two urgent cares over the holidays."

Both doctors said if a person wants to avoid waiting in person, they can try telehealth. Although, there are still wait times for that option.

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