I-Team finds surge in wait times at local emergency rooms

I-Team

CLEVELAND (WJW)– The FOX 8 I-Team found next time you go to an emergency room you’d better get ready to wait. We uncovered an explosion of patients going to ERs so we investigated.

We found MetroHealth Medical Center saw more than 13,000 emergency room patients in September alone. That marked the highest number for one month in years. Records show MetroHealth has seen increases seven months in a row.

At the same time, hospitals all over are seeing more emergency room patients. This means you can expect to wait longer to see a doctor when you walk into an ER.

The I-Team did a spot check of ERs around Northeast Ohio. We asked about wait times at 11 a.m. on Wednesday. At the time, one hospital worker told us 11 people were there waiting. At another hospital, a staff member predicted a one-hour wait. At another location, we were told of a steady line of patients coming in. Another had only two people waiting.

TJ Martin sees it while working for the Parma Fire Department.

“It’s not one factor, but a multitude of factors,” he said.

Martin said when the COVID-19 pandemic began, many people stopped going to doctors afraid they’d catch COVID. Now, people are going back to doctors, but many people just go to the ER instead of waiting for appointments.

Plus, hospitals are dealing with a shortage of nurses.

“An emergency department will kind of evaluate those patients. You may wait an inordinate amount of time or what seems to be an inordinate amount of time to you. A heart attack versus a toothache gets infinitely greater priority,” Martin said.

We’ve shown you the problem has even delayed ambulance crews dropping off patients at hospitals.

The Cleveland Clinic released a statement:

“Currently, healthcare is facing an increased demand for services, including in our emergency departments.

“We are seeing both patients with COVID-19 and an increase in other patients needing care. While volumes have been high and expected wait times may be increased, we are committed to the communities we serve. As a healthcare system, we closely manage capacity and have the ability to treat patients at different facilities to ensure they receive the care they need.”

University Hospitals also released a statement:

“Emergency Department volumes at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, and across our health system, have returned to ‘pre-COVID-19’ levels, or slightly above. These volumes are manageable and UH has adequate staffing to provide the best possible care for patients.”

Firelands Health said:

“Our emergency room volumes rose about a month ago and have since leveled off to match typical volumes. At this time, we are not seeing an influx of patients through our emergency department.”

We met Shannon Mitchell walking in to the MetroHealth Medical Center emergency room. He told us he’s seen the impact as a patient or waiting with a patient.

“It’s a long wait sometimes. You have a lot of people. Then, sometimes, they’re short.  They keep you sitting there,” Mitchell said.

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