PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - Wait times at local hospitals are having a negative impact on the ability of ambulances to respond to 911 calls, according to AMR.

AMR says those wait times are taking longer due to the rising number of COVID-19 patients in Oregon.

“People are having to stay in the hospital longer, beds are not available and, as everybody knows, ICU beds are often taken,” said Dave Northfield, spokesman for the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Northfield says it all starts with staffing shortages at recovery centers, forcing patients to stay in the hospital longer. He says that sets off an unfortunate chain of events, especially at a time when more and more people are coming to the hospital.

“It’s obviously a terrible situation for patients facing all sorts of issues, not just COVID,” Northfield said.

AMR says it is also facing staff shortages, making things worse.

“Because hospitals are receiving an unprecedented number of patients, ambulance crews must often wait with their patient until a hospital bed becomes available. Ambulance crews encounter such wait times multiple times every day. Ambulances held at local emergency rooms cannot respond to other 911 calls,” AMR Operations Manager Rob McDonald said in a statement.

AMR says that patients still receive life-saving care during that time, but it leaves that unit occupied.

Northfield says that models show hospital capacity could be an issue going through November. He says even as the number of COVID-19 cases goes down, it will still take longer for hospital capacity to catch up to that trend.

That’s why he says he urges everyone who is able to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Until we get this hospital capacity and patient care crisis under control, that’s the situation that we’re in,” Northfield said.

McDonald says that AMR is working hard to hire more staff, including by offering sign-on bonuses. He says it is harder to find trained EMTs because of the loss of EMS education programs over the last year.

Copyright 2021 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. 

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