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Press Release

Health Officials Urge Residents Not to Use Emergency Rooms for Routine Care

February 13, 2006

Health officials are reminding local residents that hospital emergency rooms are not the places to go for non-urgent medical care, especially during the winter flu and cold season when emergency rooms are overcrowded.

"We understand that when a family member becomes ill, people want immediate medical advice, but the emergency room is not always the best place to go. We recommend that families call their medical provider, follow their provider’s directions and schedule an appointment if necessary," said Dr. Wendel Brunner, Contra Costa County's Public Health Director. "This will help us deal with overcrowded emergency rooms that are being stretch to the limit."

People with the flu should get plenty of rest, drink a lot of liquids, and avoid using alcohol and tobacco, Brunner said. Over-the-counter fever reducers and cough syrup can be taken to alleviate symptoms. Aspirin products should not be given to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms - and particularly fever - without first speaking to a doctor.

"The wait for emergency room care for persons without a critical emergency may be one to several hours. In the emergency room, patients are not seen on a first-come-first-served basis. Critical cases are seen first. These include persons with heart attacks, or injuries from serious accidents or violent crimes. Cold and flu-like symptoms may be considered low priority in an emergency room and wait time may increase," Brunner said.

People with acute or serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, stroke symptoms, convulsions, or other serious emergencies should go to the emergency room or call 911 immediately, Brunner said.

Information about the flu and flu vaccine is available online on the Contra Costa Health Services website at or by calling Contra Costa Health Services Health Emergency Information Hotline at 1-888-959-9911.

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  • Francie Wise
  • 925-313-6740