I’ve been reading quite a lot of posts across Facebook from people upset when an emergency room can’t see them immediately.
Individuals have talked about visiting the E.R. with problems as varied as high temperatures to seizures. Every post seems to have something in common though.
Everyone believes their emergency is more urgent than the emergencies of others, and they are upset that they aren’t seen immediately.
Another post I saw recently expressed anger that Womack Army Medical Center admitted a Soldier hurt during training before they were seen.
With a more aggressive flu season this year, and with changes to some TRICARE policies, I thought it was important to talk about the Womack Emergency Department.
Womack E.D.’s mission, according to their website, is to “provide the Fort Bragg community the finest around the clock, compassionate emergency medical care that is possible.”
The main function of the E.D. is to treat those who are suffering from an acute, serious illness or injury that would lead to complications if not immediately treated.
The E.D. is not meant to be an urgent-care center. Just like E.R.s in other hospitals, the Womack E.D. will triage all patients who come in to be seen.
Triaging is how the front-line-medical staff assesses a patient’s medical condition when they come in.
Vital signs are taken when the patient first comes in; questions are asked about current symptoms and medical history. When all of that is done, the patient will be assigned a level of priority from one to five on the Emergency Severity Index. An ESI level-one patient has the highest priority in the E.D.
Patients are not seen in the order they arrive at the E.D. They are seen based on their ESI assessment, so the sickest patients are seen first.
So, what is an emergency? This is where your best judgement comes into play. A lot of what people deem “emergencies” are really things that can be handled by an urgent-care center.
A patient with flu symptoms can be seen at an urgent care. If a fever is reaching dangerously high levels, that is when it should be considered an emergency.
Non-emergency situations are best handled by your primary care manager.
As of Jan. 1, TRICARE has changed their policy concerning urgent care, making it easier to be seen.
Referrals are no longer needed, and point-of-service charges no longer apply to urgent-care center claims.
Urgent care is a tool to utilize if you can’t get in to a clinic to see your PCM, or if what you need to be seen for isn’t quite an emergency.
If you need help, and are unsure if what you are experiencing is an emergency, the 24/7 Nurse Advice Line can always help. Call them with questions at 1-800-TRICARE, and hit option one.
TRICARE does still urge active-duty Soldiers to utilize Army hospitals and clinics.