Medics running more transports to rural hospitals

Austin EMS Association President Selena Xie said medics are using a new online system to divert patients away from hospitals that are completely overwhelmed.

"We have at least two hospitals that have the disaster rating, which means that we absolutely should not bring patients to this hospital, and almost every other hospital says that they are overburdened or critical. And, so, it's definitely a lot busier than we've ever seen it," Xie said.

For the past couple of weeks, with hospital beds in short supply, medics in Austin have been trying to navigate where to take patients in need of emergency care.

"Not only do we have a much higher caseload in the field, we're seeing about a 20 percent increase in 9-1-1 calls. We're also seeing that the ERs are having to hold three or four patients, that are ICU patients, in the ER for days at a time. And, so, that is taking up ER beds," said Xie.

Now, as medics treat patients in the field, they must make sure those who opt for the emergency room at some locations know it may take days before they are able to see a doctor.

"Medics are having to bear some very bad news to patients. And, in fact, we have been hearing more than usual that our medics are having these really hard conversations with patients and that patients are not happy about it," Xie said.

Ambulances are also carrying patients further away to hospitals that have more resources available. That means medics are tied up on each call longer.

"We're having to take patients from one crowded ICU to a little bit less crowded outside of town. And, so, then that ambulance is stuck in a totally different part of town. And, yes, we are really overworked right now," said Xie.

Xie said staffing shortages are another issue Austin EMS is facing right now. Friday, ATCEMS shut down two ambulances and community and mental health response because they didn’t have enough medics. 

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