Higher volume of 911 calls, hospital visits causing longer wait times

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NILES, Mich. -- Hospital staff and EMT’s are feeling the strain of increased 911 calls and patient volumes while emergency rooms continue to fill up with COVID patients. 

Spectrum Health Lakeland alerted the public Thursday that all three of their emergency departments – St. Joseph, Watervliet and Niles – are dealing with significantly longer wait times. Spectrum even listed out the injuries or illnesses that will be prioritized:

Persistent chest pain or pressure

Facial lacerations

Head injury or broken bones

Major burns

Numbness or paralysis of face, arm, or leg

Poisoning or suspected overdose

Seizure or loss of consciousness

Severe reaction to insect bites, medication, or food

Severe shortness of breath or inability to breathe’

Sudden slurred speech, visual changes, or weakness

Uncontrollable bleeding

Anything not listed, you’re asked to go to your primary doctor or an urgent care clinic instead. 

Those responding to your emergency and getting you to the hospital are feeling the strain too.

“Based on our call log sheets that we keep everyday, we’re almost two times what we were even a few months ago,” said Sofia Dejong, EMT at Southwest Michigan Community Ambulance Service (SMCAS). 

At SMCAS, not only are their call volumes up, but so are inter-facility transfers by 60 percent. 

“We transport mainly to Niles, St. Joe, Mishawaka and South Bend – recently it seems like all of them, or three out of four, are on diversion – which is essentially we’re at full capacity, we can’t accept patients – we’ll still bring patients because we have to bring them somewhere, if they’re not critical we’ll just bring them to the ER waiting room,” said Dejong.

Staff is picking up extra shifts, but with the increase in stops they’re making, there may be no choice but to wait a little longer for them to get to you.

“People who would never take naps during their shift are taking naps, we’re all running on empty,” said Dejong. “Try and be patient with us, we are people and we will show up.”

You can see Lakeland’s COVID dashboard here

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