Cook Children's Medical Center

ER Wait Times Grow As More Children Get Sick

It’s still technically flu season, but that’s not the only illness that has families flocking to the emergency room at Cook Children's Medical Center.

Respiratory and fever issues, from RSV to gastroenteritis with vomiting, diarrhea and severe dehydration, are also bringing kids to the ER.

Doctors say children are sicker now than they’ve ever been.

“Our [Emergency Department] is running beyond full capacity and has been since December. But in the last few weeks we’re seeing a larger number of very ill children than even during flu season,” said Dr. Corwin Warmink, assistant medical director of the Emergency Department at Cook Children’s. “The sicker the child, the longer it takes to diagnose, treat and properly care for them.”

The hospital says its emergency department is averaging nearly 400 patients a day, and during its busiest times a new patient will check in every two minutes.

Overall, children appear to be sicker this year. Compared to this time last year, Cook Children’s has seen a 60-percent increase in the percentage of children who need critical care.

As the number of patients admitted and treated in the Emergency Department increases, so does the time physicians spend with each child, which contributes to the much longer waiting times.

“Families could spend anywhere from five to 10 hours or longer in our waiting room, depending on the day they visit. We are actively bringing in extra doctors, nurses and support staff to try and improve these times,” said Warmink.

Warmink advises parents that Sundays and Mondays are the busiest days of the week in the emergency room. Evenings after 5 p.m. are also typically busy.

The first line of defense is your child’s pediatrician. If your child isn’t experiencing emergency symptoms, making an appointment with a child’s doctor may help avoid a long wait at the ER.

Cook Children’s also has several urgent care clinics for non-emergent needs.

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