CHI Health officials discuss emergency departments amid rising COVID-19 cases

Posted at 12:28 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 20:07:16-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Officials with CHI Health held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss what the health system is doing to take some pressure off of hospital emergency departments.

Julie Gernetzke, CHI Health Division Vice President, Medical Group Enterprise Operations, and Darcy Jones, PA-C, Medical Site Leader, CHI Health Priority Care and Quick Care, spoke during a virtual press conference.

"The emergency rooms are just so full across all the hospitals," Gernetzke said.

It's a warning we've heard for weeks, and now it's become a reality. The number of coronavirus patients in need of care is forcing CHI Health to make some needed changes.

Gernetzke said the hospital system plans to close its Quick Care clinics and assign the staff from those locations to its Priority Care clinics.

Jones adds this change will help staffing issues, as well as creating a safer option for those treating mild COVID-19 cases.

"If you are having more severe symptoms, especially symptoms like shortness of breath or difficulty breathing...those are times where it may be more appropriate to go to the emergency room," Jones said.

CHI is also encouraging customers to use telehealth to directly chat with a provider.

"It's definitely less expensive, and it's also not urgent care pricing, as well," Gernetzke said.

Gernetzke said the focus is on COVID-19, but these options are for anything health-related.

"Again, if you have a cough or mild COVID symptoms, by going to a priority care you are really helping the hospitals take care of the moderately to severe patients that need to be seen," Gernetzke said.

The virtual chat option is free to patients and telehealth visits cost $35 or can be covered with a normal health insurance co-pay.

The Priority Care clinics will be available to evaluate possible COVID-19 symptoms, test for the disease and treat routine, non-emergency health injuries or illness. Flu shots will also be available at the clinics.

CHI has nine Priority Care clinics in Omaha, two in Lincoln and one in Kearney. Six of the Omaha clinics will have expanded hours and CHI officials emphasized that anyone experiencing mild COVID symptoms should avoid the ER.

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