Triad Health Systems Urge People to Use Emergency Departments Only for True Emergencies

Those needing less critical care should expect longer waits

September 29, 2021

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, Cone Health and Novant Health ask the communities they serve to use emergency departments only for true life threatening emergencies. People are also asked to consider virtual care, primary care and urgent care for non-critical care. 

Patients who come to the emergency department for non-life threatening issues can expect to wait two to three times longer than they would have before the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people are arriving simply to seek COVID-19 testing that should be done elsewhere in the community. 

This call to avoid emergency departments for non-life threatening care should not discourage anyone from coming to a hospital in a true emergency.

“If you experience chest pain, trouble moving an arm or a leg, trouble speaking, or have a traumatic injury, you should call 911 immediately or go to your nearest emergency department,” said Dr. Chad Miller, chair of emergency medicine at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist. “We know that seconds count and even the slightest delay in getting care for heart attacks, strokes and other true emergencies can lead to life-long disability or death.” 

“Many people want COVID-19 testing so they can get on a plane, go to a concert or get their child back in school,” said Kenneth Rempher, chief nurse executive, Cone Health. “However, it is far easier to be tested at a community testing site or even at your neighborhood drug store, than spending hours waiting to be tested in the emergency room.”

Conditions such as ear and eye infections, skin problems (minor burns, rashes, and insect bites), cold/flu/allergy symptoms, muscle or joint pain, cuts, or injuries where X-rays may be needed, can best be cared for in doctor’s offices or urgent care clinics, and in many cases, can be triaged or handled entirely through a virtual visit. 

“It’s never been easier to schedule a COVID-19 test or vaccination appointment,” said Dr. Stan Fuller, Novant Health senior vice president and chief clinical officer for the greater Winston-Salem market. “If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19, please contact your primary care provider about next steps instead of going to the emergency department. This will not only help to relieve the strain on our hospitals, but it will also be a much more convenient option for our patients.” 

Media Contacts:

Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist – Joe McCloskey,

Cone Health – Patrick Wright,

Novant Health – Dallas Britt,