Crowding at local hospitals stretches ER, ambulance wait times

Published: Jul. 28, 2021 at 6:58 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The rise in COVID cases isn’t the only problem for local health officials. At two of our major hospitals, overcrowding is becoming an issue. In the last five days at AU Health and University Hospital, you can see multiple ambulances lined up outside of the hospitals.

The Georgia Coordinating Center which sends ambulances to hospitals with available emergency rooms shows AU Health and University are severely overcrowded.

Local hospitals are saying this is something they haven’t seen before. The major hospitals are on ER and ICU diversion right now. That means they aren’t taking patients there. We spoke with one ambulance driver who said this has been ridiculous. And sometimes they are stuck waiting here for six to eight hours at a time after dropping a patient off.

In emergency rooms across the CSRA, seats in the waiting rooms and parking spots for the ambulances are taken.

“I think all of the emergency departments actually not only locally but nationally are experiencing high volumes,” said Dr. Richard Schwartz, Department Chairman of Emergency Medicine.

It’s the new normal for our ER’s in Augusta. Doctors say with COVID not enough staff and general medical emergencies they’re bursting at the seams.

“There is definitely been an increase in COVID coming in and I think that’s something that is seen throughout the CSRA. The volume of sick patients in general has been really high,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Of our three major hospitals, AU and University are listed as severely overcrowded. So much that they can’t take new patients in their ER or ICU.

“We have probably not had the community as a whole on diversion as much as we are currently having and I think that’s primarily driven by the COVID situation,” he said.

The long wait times are tieing up ambulances, some having to wait hours before getting back out on the road. Hospitals are working to get tests and labs back as soon as people get to the ER.

“We really try to turn around the EMS units as quickly as possible because we recognize that if they’re tied up in the emergency departments and they’re not out on the streets able to help people,” said Dr. Schwartz.

Doctors say they need the community to do their part to help ease the number of patients coming through their ER.

“If I could ask for one thing it would be for people to go out and get immunized to protect themselves and protect those around them,” he said.

Doctors say it seems that everyone is in need of medical care right now, they again have one simple message to urge people to get vaccinated.

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