dr weitlich

Dr. John Weitlich, an orthopedic traumatologist, said the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center can be an alternative to the emergency room in some situations, especially with COVID cases surging.

In St. Joseph and across the state, concerns about emergency room capacity are an ongoing problem with the surge of omicron cases.

Dave Dillon, Missouri Hospital Association spokesperson, said the COVID-19 variant has brought a caseload that’s unprecedented, and now more than ever it is important for people to not misuse the emergency room.

“If you are not truly needing emergency treatment, for example if you are simply looking for a COVID test and don’t know where to find one other than to go to the emergency department, the best place to go is not the emergency department,” Dillon said.

Dillon said the problem with people using the ER for non-emergency reasons is it slows down the process and people who need hospital beds get them later. He said the emergency room method was not designed to handle some of the overcrowding it has seen.

“Our system isn’t designed to help this many cases all occurring at the same time, and that’s good most of the time because you don’t want to have all of this excess standby capacity just waiting around and being extremely costly,” Dillon said. “The problem is it also isn’t really scalable to the extent that we’re seeing a demand for right now, simply because it’s impossible to anticipate this kind of a surge so quickly.”

One alternative to using the emergency room in St. Joseph is the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center, which offers a walk-in clinic from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic, located at 3107 Frederick Ave Suite B, can treat patients with no prior appointments for skeletal injuries in order to provide relief to the emergency room.

Dr. John Weitlich, an orthopedic traumatologist, said the clinic staff can act quickly and do X-rays.

“We have the capabilities to put in splints and stabilize fractures, and we can also help with pain control with pain medicine and pain management,” Weitlich said.

Weitlich said the clinic is well staffed and equipped to take on more capacity and get people seen in a timely matter.

“There’s a big burden on our hospital system, not only here but in most cities, so any way we can decrease the burden and keep people out of the emergency department ... and if we can keep people out of the waiting rooms out of positions and be able to come here and decrease that burden, I think it’s a great help for our entire community,” Weitlich said.

The number for the Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Clinic is 816-233-9888 ext. 800.

Clayton Anderson can be reached at clayton.anderson@newspressnow.com. Follow him on twitter: @NPNowAnderson.

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