COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — As inpatient hospital beds are filling up, so are emergency rooms. Doctors and patients report hours-long wait times as a result.
Brett Racheter’s fiance wasn’t feeling well Thursday morning. Fearing she had COVID-19, Racheter took her to the ER at Mt. Carmel Grove City around 7 a.m.
“I’ve never been in a war before, but that’s what it seemed like in there,” Racheter said.
Racheter estimates he saw roughly 40-50 people in the waiting room, some of whom were laying down across multiple chairs and sleeping. Some, he said, appeared very ill.
“There was a guy on the lobby just throwing up terribly bad,” he said, adding that another woman told him she’d been waiting 16 hours with her mother, who was having trouble breathing.
After waiting about six hours, Racheter said he and his fiance left without help around 1:00 or 1:30, then came back around 3:30 or 4 p.m. They left again around 9:30 Thursday night.
“We had a nurse take her into one of the offices and swab her for COVID,” Racheter said. “It’s the only reason we know she doesn’t have COVID.” Racheter said he and his fiance are vaccinated against COVID and received booster shots as well.
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According to a statement from a Mt. Carmel spokesperson to NBC4, “Central Ohio health systems are experiencing unprecedented times, leaving our hospitals at or near capacity and creating long emergency room wait times. And unfortunately, COVID-19 hospitalizations will continue to increase, with potentially our largest surge yet on the horizon.”
The statement goes on to read, “Because of the stress COVID-19 has placed on local hospitals, it is not unusual for patients to experience longer than normal wait times in emergency rooms. It is more important than ever for the public to utilize local emergency rooms for true life-threatening conditions and severe injuries.”
“I feel like I’ve seen some people in some of our ERs have been waiting eight to nine hours to be seen for care,” said Dr. Erika Kube, an emergency physician who works at hospitals across the OhioHealth system. “Things have been absolutely crazy. I’ve never seen it like this. I’ve been an emergency physician for 12 years.”
Kube said more patients have shown up feeling ill in recent weeks, explaining that as inpatient hospital beds fill up, it leads to a backlog of patients in the emergency room.
“We’re having trouble seeing the patients in the emergency departments because there’s just no space to see them,” Kube said. “It just seems that there are a lot of sick people that need care. And we are just having trouble getting to them at times because there’s so many patients, and it’s so hard to get them admitted to the hospital because there aren’t beds available there.”
Kube said the vast majority of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 have not been vaccinated against the virus. She urged people to get a booster shot, or their first COVID vaccine if they have not gotten it already. Kube also urged people to avoid the emergency room if it is possible to get medical care elsewhere, especially if the patient is only seeking a COVID test.
Mt. Carmel recommends people who need a COVID test contact their primary care provider, or visit a pharmacy or public health location to get testing. Many urgent care locations also provide testing, and at-home tests are available free at area public libraries.
Mt. Carmel suggests you go to the emergency room immediately if you experience shortness of breath/wheezing, persistent chest pain, stroke symptoms, have a major cut or severe bleeding, head or eye injury, a major burn or broken bones.