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High Patient Levels Lead To Long ER Waits

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) —  Luz Oquendo-Mateo showed up at the Baystate Emergency Room at 5 pm Wednesday night with abdominal pains.

“I proceeded to just wait and wait and wait and the wait took exactly 12 hours for me just to be called in,” Oquendo-Mateo said.

Luz thought new equipment and more space would mean shorter wait times in the new ER. Baystate says not so fast. Vice President of Emergency Services Deb Provost says since the ER opened Monday, they’ve seen over 1,000 patients, 20 % more ambulances than normal. Compared to the same week last year, they also have an 80% higher acuity volume. In other words, lots of critically ill patients, but why?

“It really is just that patients are a lot sicker,” Provost said. “We had 3 patients in the first four hours of the emergency department being open that had strokes. It’s acuity like that and acuity that the patients are very sick.”

Provost says that fills up the hospital and creates back logs in the ER waiting rooms.

“We’re not going to sacrifice someone’s care to move them out quicker and so we are dealing with the patients as they come in,” Provost said.

The average wait time is 3.5 hours. Provost says this week it’s closer to four or five. She says Luz was the exception. After arriving at 5pm Wednesday, she finally left at 7am Thursday. She says many other patients walked out before being seen, but not her.

“I was just starting to get frustrated it was probably about 9 hours,” Luz said. “I made up my mind that I was already there 9 hours, I might as well stay. Obviously if they are there they are in need of care. They might be in pain and so it’s kind of sad. I was really saddened to see that because I really trust Baystate Medical Center.”

Baystate says they’ve actually added staff to accommodate their new space in ER.

“Unlike when you buy a house you have time to move in and get settled,” Provost said. “In an emergency department, you open the doors and the patients are there. I think we are doing the best that we can to meet our community’s needs.”

Provost says for everyone’s sake, she hopes the recent spike in acute care averages out soon enough.


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