Amanda Kachaylo came into a Columbus emergency department on a late September day expecting to wait, but she had no idea how long.
Kachaylo, 25, of Victorian Village, had an infected cat bite. Unfortunately, the day she went to the ER, Ohio’s COVID hospitalizations were at an all-time high. One hour of waiting went into two, which turned into five.
As Hospitals Try To Manage Their Budgets
After being spared earlier in the pandemic, emergency departments have been struck hard with the recent increase of COVID cases, which has resulted in longer wait times and prompted physicians to deal with a fresh wave of infections and patients like Kachaylo.
When Kachaylo arrived in Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center at 2 p.m., the waiting room was full.
After almost an hour, a worker took her vitals and checked her in before leaving her to wait once again.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, visits to hospital emergency departments decreased by 42% countrywide as people stayed at home to treat the coronavirus. Although the reduction relieved tension in emergency departments in the early days of the epidemic, physicians believe it is contributing to their current overcrowding.
Many people avoided seeking medical attention, maybe due to fear of getting infected with the illness. Nineteen months later, it’s likely that individuals will be unable to ignore such medical issues, according to Dr. Adam Heringhaus, medical director of Mount Carmel East hospital’s emergency department.
Doctors are noticing an increase in chronic diseases and health problems that have developed faster than typical, he added.
Doctors like Heringhaus are now treating the latest wave of COVID-19 patients as well as others who have delayed seeking treatment. The data on wait times that hospitals are required to disclose to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reveals how overburdened some emergency personnel was at the end of July.
According to government data, Wexner Medical Center had an average wait time of just under five hours, while OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospital had a wait time of three hours and 37 minutes.
According to government data, the average emergency room wait time in Ohio is two hours and 14 minutes, while the national average is two hours and 23 minutes.
Wait times had dropped to an average of 40 minutes nationwide prior to the epidemic, according to Paul Shafer, an assistant professor of health law, policy, and management at Boston University School of Public Health. Current wait times may just reflect what happens when an emergency room is expected to accomplish everything, according to Shafer.
While hospitals are obligated by law to disclose wait times to federal regulators, they do not always do so directly to patients.
On the afternoon of Oct. 4, the Dispatch phoned 12 Columbus-area emergency departments to inquire about wait times. Responses differed between hospitals and health systems.
Workers answering phones at emergency rooms at OhioHealth’s Riverside Methodist Hospital, Dublin Methodist Hospital, Marion General Hospital, and Mansfield Hospital told The Dispatch that they couldn’t give a wait time since it depended on what someone wanted to be seen for.