Backup at the ER: It’s not just COVID causing the problem

Local News

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – As COVID cases rise in the Valley, so does the number of people looking to get care at area hospitals. How they are getting there is also creating a problem.

For Lane Ambulance, wait times could be growing longer.

“I actually had a crew a day or two ago that waited three hours,” said Lane Lifetrans Ambulance assistant EMS chief Judy Hartley.

It’s a problem being seen all over the country: fire departments and ambulance companies have to wait an hour or more to offload patients because hospitals are so busy right now.

“We have crews that will come in and they will radio out to the dispatch that they’re in line of several other EMS and they’re waiting for beds,” Hartley said.

Departments like Canfield are having to wait a half-hour or more to get their patients into emergency rooms, and those patients are waiting hours more to be seen and treated.

“We’re also looking at sometimes 45 minutes to an hour when that ambulance is gone, it leaves our community with less ambulances,” said Cardinal Joint Fire District department chief Matt Rarick.

There are times when all of the fire district’s ambulances are being used at once — but not all the runs are real emergencies.

“But they’re clogging up the emergency rooms where they could go to an immediate care, they could go see their doctor, instead they’re using the emergency room as their personal physician,” Rarick said.

Paramedics said they’re seeing more and more people calling for non-emergency situations, thinking if they arrive at the ER in an ambulance, they’ll be seen faster.

“That thought is out there, but it’s not necessarily the case,” Hartley said.

Those operating the ambulance companies said they’ve been meeting with hospital administrations to try to find a resolution to this problem and reduce waiting times.

Mercy Health clinical director Dr. James Kravec said part of this can be blamed on the big jump in COVID-19 cases and cases of other respiratory illnesses — but patients are also coming in with minor illnesses and for testing.

“Mercy Health has eight walk-in cares situated strategically around the Mahoning Valley for you to use and that, I think, is one way to help the emergency room for those with the worst emergencies,” Dr. Kravec said.

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