Ambulance response wait times are increasing at Chatham Co.

SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) – Ambulance response times are high in Chatham County. This is a problem that has arisen during the pandemic and has worsened.

Chatham emergency services officials say July was the second-worst month for response times in the past year.

Doctors say this year they have seen the highest number of people coming to the emergency room. The problem is that Chatham’s emergency services chief operating officer says people are calling for non-emergency issues. This prevents them from getting to people who really need to go to the ER at a decent time.

“Where six to eight ambulances at a hospital waited for a room while 911 calls kept coming in.”

It’s supposed to take around 20 minutes to drop off a patient, Phil Koster of Chatham Emergency Services says it takes hours.

He says the situation is getting worse because people are calling for non-urgent reasons.

“Minor skin issues, gout, arthritis flare-ups, things they might take to their primary care doctors or emergency care, their call for an ambulance,” said Phil Koster, director operation of Chatham’s emergency services.

He thinks some call an ambulance to get to the front of the line, but he says that’s not how it works.

Memorial Health Dr. John Sy says some health conditions that warrant calling 911 are related to trauma, life threatening, high fever and abdominal pain.

“Heart-related stuff, respiratory stuff, tough stuff. If people have difficulty breathing. If people have chest pain,” said emergency room director Dr. John Sy.

Dr Sy says Memorial saw its highest number of people visiting the ER in about 50 years in 2022.

“We have had a very busy year. I think that’s the main cause. It’s just the volume of patients we get. Coming out of the pandemic, we are still trying to work on our processes and get hired up to full staff.

Despite the delays, Koster says Chatham Emergency Services said there was room for error if they simply stopped taking people with minor issues to hospital.

“There’s always a chance someone will call with a minor issue and something will happen that needs immediate attention. We are not in a position where we stop.

He says that while they have not been allowed to stop bringing people with minor illnesses to hospital, that idea is not discounted.

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