Local doctors said people needing urgent care should still visit emergency rooms during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medical issues haven't stopped amid the pandemic, but it's made people think differently about hospitals.

Drew Lemke, who had an appendectomy in June, said he went to get a COVID-19 test before going to the hospital, despite being in serious pain.

"I waited until about the fourth day," he said. "I would have gone by the second day."

Doctors say if something was an emergency prior to the pandemic, it's still an emergency now.

"Really one of our challenges in ensuring people access the hospital when it's needed, because we do have the capacity and do have the plan in place," said Dr. Sunjay Sharma, critical care chief at Hamilton Health Services. "People shouldn't feel they can't access care, because we do need those patients to present themselves when it's time."

Dr. Sharma said waiting can have significant consequences.

"If people fell they have a need to come to the hospital, they should," he said. "We did see some patient outcomes that were impacted by patients not accessing the hospital when they probably would have."

Officials say wait times are considerably shorter at local emergency rooms during the pandemic.