ETCH doctors concerned by drop in pediatric emergency room visits

Published: May. 15, 2020 at 7:23 PM EDT
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You would think that a drop in the number of children arriving at the emergency room would be a good thing, but doctors at East Tennessee Children's Hospital called the trend concerning. They're worried the pandemic is causing parents to be fearful of hospitals and therefore preventing children from getting the care they need.

"It is one of the things we've seen - luckily not in Knoxville so far - but across the country where there are tragic stories about parents who have delayed care. We always emphasize when you need care - especially in an emergency department setting - that we're available and we're taking precautions to make sure it's safe," said Dr. Ryan Redman, Emergency Room Director for East Tennessee Children's Hospital.

In an interview with

, Dr. Redman said emergency room visits were down by about 50 percent.

"Volumes are down throughout all specialties but with clinic visits and emergency department visits, we're down quite a bit. Yes, and not just in the general hospital, but also in the pediatrician's office where people are deferring immunizations and things that are really important for kids to stay up on," Dr. Redman said.

The pandemic sparked changes at Children's emergency room. Dr. Redman said staff are protected with masks and goggles, patients are too, and that cleaning efforts are emphasized and increased.

He said it will look different too, "What you'll see when you come in is an empty waiting room with people getting back relatively quick and being seen right away in a safe manner that separates you from other patients. It's not like some of those other stories you've seen from other harder hit areas where they have full emergency departments and are bursting at the seams with hectic scenes. That's just not what we're experiencing right now in Knoxville."

Dr. Redman said reasons to visit an emergency department include difficulty breathing, difficulty with hydration, bleeding that won't stop, obvious fractures or the inability to walk.

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