LUBBOCK, Texas — Wait times at local hospitals have gone down, but only just. Hospitals are still struggling to keep up with the number of patients walking through their doors.
“We want to get the tests, we’re going to take care of you, it’s just right now we are at capacity. It’s just taking a little bit longer,” said Medical Director for UMC, Dr. Christopher Piel.
But according to UMC, the number of COVID patients coming to their ER is down by more than half, but still their wait times sometimes reaching over 18 hours.
“Now we are just having an influx of people. Maybe they put health care off for awhile. It seems like the people we are seeing are sicker so more of them are requiring admission right now,” said Piel.
Covenant’s main ER also seeing some longer wait times, an issue they said stems from a backlog of beds.
“Once you have several people that are admitted to the hospital that are patients then that causes the emergency department to hold several patients and then that causes a backlog in the lobby. So everyone has had to wait longer,” said Emergency Medicine Physician, Dr. Tony Gonzales.
So in order to try and cut down the wait times, both hospitals developed triage systems: A way to quickly assess the severity of a patient and allow more emergent cases to be seen sooner.
“It depends of whether or not they fit the criteria for a Level 1 trauma or a Level 2 trauma that will depend on how quickly they get seen. And those patients sometimes need to wait in the lobby and that’s just part of the triage criteria that we use,” said Gonzales.
Doctors said typically many case that come to the ER are not actually emergent and could be helped faster with a general practitioner or at an urgent care.
“We will make room and take care immediate emergencies without question 100% of the time, but a majority of what we have that walks through our door it’s not truly immediately emergent. It’s something that need and evaluation needs a workup and may need to come to the hospital. So we get the work up started and we wait,” said Piel.
But both ERs said they still plan to help all patients who need them no matter what.
“I don’t want to deter people from coming in you need the care that you need we are here to help you but do realize there are other avenues for access,” said Piel.