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Calif. lawmakers address long ambulance wait times at hospitals

Lawmakers at the state Capitol on Wednesday addressed long wait times when ambulances arrive at issues, a chronic issue worsened by COVID-19 impacts.The Assembly Committee on Emergency Management heard from first responders and hospital representatives from across the state. Panelists discussed the ongoing problem and potential solutions.First responders say they are facing unreasonable delays in turning patients over into the care of hospitals. "We can have upwards of eight to 10 ambulances sitting at the emergency rooms for upwards of 5 to 8 to 10 hours at a time, waiting for a bed, "said Capt. Parker Wilbourn with the Sacramento Metro Fire Department.He said it means that the ambulance is essentially out of service for that period of time, unavailable to respond to other 911 calls. He said it's an issue that's been going on well before the pandemic began. But now, first responders said this ongoing issue has reached a crisis point. "It's a very challenging time right now, and that's why we're seeing some of the frustration coming through the testimony today," said Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California.He said hospitals are seeing over 40% more patients this time around than during the surge last year while also starting with 20% less staff. "I think the shortest-term thing we can do in the middle of this pandemic is making sure that people that really need care go to hospital and non-emergent and COVID testing really stays out of the emergency room, "Bucklew said. "That's what's causing a lot of the backups and delays that have been exacerbated during this pandemic."

Lawmakers at the state Capitol on Wednesday addressed long wait times when ambulances arrive at issues, a chronic issue worsened by COVID-19 impacts.

The Assembly Committee on Emergency Management heard from first responders and hospital representatives from across the state. Panelists discussed the ongoing problem and potential solutions.

First responders say they are facing unreasonable delays in turning patients over into the care of hospitals.

"We can have upwards of eight to 10 ambulances sitting at the emergency rooms for upwards of 5 to 8 to 10 hours at a time, waiting for a bed," said Capt. Parker Wilbourn with the Sacramento Metro Fire Department.

He said it means that the ambulance is essentially out of service for that period of time, unavailable to respond to other 911 calls. He said it's an issue that's been going on well before the pandemic began.

But now, first responders said this ongoing issue has reached a crisis point.

"It's a very challenging time right now, and that's why we're seeing some of the frustration coming through the testimony today," said Bryan Bucklew, president and CEO of the Hospital Council of Northern and Central California.

He said hospitals are seeing over 40% more patients this time around than during the surge last year while also starting with 20% less staff.

"I think the shortest-term thing we can do in the middle of this pandemic is making sure that people who really need care go to hospital and non-emergent and COVID testing really stays out of the emergency room," Bucklew said. "That's what's causing a lot of the backups and delays that have been exacerbated during this pandemic."

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