Due to a lack of beds, Memorial Hospital was forced to enact its diversion plan Wednesday afternoon. As part of the plan, non-critical EMS patients were to be taken to other area facilities. The diversion status was canceled this morning. (Journal-Tribune photo by Mac Cordell)
For only the second time in recent memory, Memorial Hospital had to turn patients away overnight on Wednesday.
At 3:45 p.m., the hospital alerted regional first responders that it would be going on EMS diversion. As patient volume dipped, that diversion status was canceled at 7:45 a.m. today.
Under Memorial’s EMS diversion program the hospital encouraged area EMS units to transport non-critical patients to other area facilities. Critical patients were still allowed to be brought to Memorial if it was the closest facility.
Officials said that Memorial continued to treat patients who arrived at the facility on their own, but noted there could be a significant delay if others are more sick and required immediate intervention.
“We try hard to avoid this step, but we have been on the cusp of having to go here for weeks,” Memorial Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jason Russell said.
Russell has been with Memorial since 2014, previously as the Medical Director of the Emergency Department, and said this is only the second time the hospital has had to go on diversion due to patient volume in his time, the other incident being several years ago.
“We take pride in being able to care for the patients in this region, but we are currently bursting at the seams,” Russell said.
The backlog is due to the recent surge in COVID-19 patients. The large number of very serious virus cases added to more typical acute care patients being treated for things like heart attacks, strokes and broken hips has kept the hospital at capacity for most of September.
“Our inpatient beds are completely full and we have a significant number of patients in our emergency department who need a bed,” Russell said. “Due to the acuity level of current inpatients, many of whom have very long stays in the hospital while being treated for COVID, we simply don’t have the ability to discharge patients fast enough to move additional ones into the inpatient pavilion.”
The hospital reaching capacity comes despite the fact that Memorial recently expanded capacity by opening its new 36-room inpatient tower. Hospital officials announced in July that the new tower will also have 12 additional rooms completed, in previously unfinished space.
This backlog means patients waiting for a bed must be held in the emergency department. As a result, those beds are not available for future ER patients who comes through the door.
This practice of holding patients in the emergency department while waiting for an inpatient bed to open up has been a recurring theme in recent weeks all over Central Ohio, according to hospital officials.
“I participate on a daily call with hospital leaders from across the region,” Russell said. “Holding patients in emergency departments for long periods of time has become commonplace over the past several weeks.
“In some cases, patients are being held in the ED for days.”