NEW YORK – New York City’s emergency responders are reminding New Yorkers to only call 9-1-1 or go to a hospital emergency room for a “real” emergency.
Needing a COVID test doesn’t qualify but some New Yorkers don’t seem to get that and have been calling an ambulance anyway. It prompted the FDNY to tweet “ambulances do not provide testing for covid-19, and patients are not transported to a hospital to be tested upon request. ”
The sentiment is echoed by Emergency room doctors.
“A lot of it is just people looking for COVID tests, what we refer to as the worried well so they’re symptomatic, but not in any immediate danger. They’re coming to the hospital basically to find out if they’re safe or if they’re not safe,” said Dr. Chid Iloabachie, the Associate Chair of Emergency Medicine for Long Island Jewish Valley Stream Hospital.
According to Dr. Iloabachie, people fed up with long COVID testing lines have been showing up in the E.R. instead.
“Testing is a crucial component in the fight against the pandemic, but the emergency department or the urgent care centers are not the place to get tested unless we’re having symptoms,” said Matthew Harris, medical director of the Northwell Health vaccination program. “Let’s leave those environments for those who require clinical care.”
“It causes delays to people who have true emergencies, and their response times are now lagging because of that,” FDNY EMS union president Oren Barzilay said. “People need to call 9-1-1 for true medical emergencies.”
Another problem is that COVID has caused is staffing shortages in hospitals, and in the fire and police departments. Emergency responders say the last thing they need is to be tied up helping someone who doesn’t actually have an emergency.