YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — The emergency department of Mercy Health in Youngstown is facing a crisis.
At midday on a Thursday, there are no fewer than six ambulances parked outside the emergency department. As one leaves for a call, another pulls in behind it. Once they arrive, they’re there quite a while as wait times reach hours in length.
According to Shane Haddle, a Lane LifeTrans paramedic, wait times are spanning four to five hours. On some weekends, patients have had to wait as long as six hours.
Some paramedic crews are having trouble getting inside with their patients because there are already so many people waiting to be seen or treated.
“We have to wait for the hospital to accept that patient, move them over and then our crew to clear. [Decontaminate], get back in service,” Haddle says.
According to Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency director Andy Frost, some people are using ambulances as a sort of ride service for routine medical care. This is putting an even greater strain on healthcare systems and emergency medical services.
“We have folks that are using hospitals as doctor’s offices right now, and that adds to all of our problems,” Frost says.
Haddle says these are the patients that typically get pushed to wait longer, since they’re not the highest priority.
Officials with Mercy Health say they’re aware of the problems with emergency department delays. They’re encouraging patients with non-emergency issues to use Mercy Health’s network of eight walk-in locations to ease the burden on everyone involved.
“Please use the clinics that are out there. The emergency rooms are overwhelmed, which makes EMS overwhelmed,” Frost says.
In the meantime, a meeting is planned between hospital administrators, ambulance companies and first responders to try to find solutions.