Emergency room overcrowding concerns

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WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — COVID-19 cases are increasing in our area, and that has local hospitals feeling strained.

Emergency departments are feeling pinched and ambulances crews overwhelmed. Hospitals across our region are overcrowded. When it comes to emergency care, there is a delay, even for those arriving in ambulances.

Emergency room waits are getting longer. Ambulances are overwhelmed.

“Our crews are getting exhausted. Sitting in the back of an ambulance with a patient, in the emergency room ambulance waiting area with a COVID patient for two hours is exhausting,” Trans Med Ambulance director of community relations David Prohaska said.

Pre-pandemic, it took an ambulance about 15 minutes to transfer a patient at an emergency department, give a report and be back in service. Now it’s anywhere from one to two hours.

“Because there is nowhere for the patient to be unloaded in the emergency department,” Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center chief medical officer Dr. Gerald Maloney said.

Dr. Maloney says their emergency room is packed. Part of the problem? The medical center has more COVID-19 patients than ever before.

“At the peak of the pandemic to date we had 160 patients within our hospitals with COVID. Today we have about 280,” Dr. Maloney said.

tThis creates overcrowding throughout the hospital. With 44 beds in the emergency room at Geisinger Wyoming Valley, more than 20 are occupied by patients who are admitted, but can’t move into an open in-patient bed. Prohaska calls it the perfect storm.

“Once we get to the emergency room, they are either out of beds or there’s not available beds because it’s a COVID patient so it does create a time lag where our crews are unavailable to respond to other calls,” Prohaska said.

Dr. Maloney says people help with the capacity issue by getting vaccinated and masking up.

“Use the emergency department for times that it’s appropriate. If you have an illness that can be taken care of in your physician’s office or in an urgent care center, then please consider going there,” Dr. Maloney said.

It’s not just hospital emergency rooms seeing overcrowding. Health officials say urgent care centers are also overwhelmed recently.

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