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Paramedics experience long wait times in Emergency Rooms

Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 7:02 PM CST
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - The local healthcare system is experiencing major issues when it comes to emergency rooms and ambulance wait times.

“The medical industry is being slammed right now with very little compensation,” Metro Ambulance Director Clayton Cobler said.

Paramedics are having to wait hours before their patients can be admitted at local Emergency Room.

Cobler said the traffic jams have been a problem for years and COVID has only compounded the problem.

“It’s not the ambulance against the hospitals. We are all a team. If we have something bad going on, they know we have to drop and go,” Cobler explained. “At any particular time there only nine paramedics at most at Metro. If you have a wreck with two cars with two ambulances there, then you have a heart attack and a seizure somewhere else, that’s four. That’s almost half of your staff on calls. You then have four other ambulances on the wall inside a hospital with patients that you can’t get off the stretcher.”

Dr. Fred Duggan with Rush Health Systems said they have become bombarded with patients due to this latest surge in COVID cases.

“The ERs are seeing a lot of patients that probably could be seen in clinics or urgent cares. What it’s done is overwhelm the system,” Duggan explained. “In a system where right now, because of two years entering third year of the pandemic, we really have a labor shortage. All of this need has exacerbated the situation.”

Cobler said paramedics are often caught between a rock and a hard place.

“The Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA) and by the state attorney general’s opinion, once the tire of the ambulance enters the property of the hospital, that patient is theirs and we are no longer responsible for them,” Cobler explained. “We are not allowed to treat that patient. If the patient is on a stretcher inside of an emergency room and goes into code, by law, we are not supposed to treat them.”

Dr. Duggan said they have been working with Metro to lessen the burden on paramedics and the hospital.

“Since we are part of a health system, if we have patients that need to be admitted and we don’t have beds here, we are admitting them to our critical access hospitals or we’re admitting them directly to our long-term acute care specialty. We are also utilizing our clinics to do testing,” Duggan said.

There is a way you can help. They say to only go to the ER or call an ambulance during actual emergencies and not for things that could wait until the next day or that could be treated in a clinic.

“A lot of people in this surge are sick, but they’re not desperately ill. They have a cold and they can be taken care of somewhere better than in an ER,” Duggan said.

WTOK News 11 reached out to Anderson Regional Health System and they declined the request for an interview.

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