FULTON, N.Y. — When you call 9-1-1 for a medical emergency, crews rush into action. That rush, however, is slowed when they arrive at hospitals.
“Our crews sometimes wait anywhere to an hour, two hours,” said Menter Ambulance Service President and CEO Zachary Menter. “We’ve hit the three hour mark at times. It’s very concerning.”
The main cause? A shortage of healthcare workers, which isn’t new. There’s the potential, this can go from bad to worse.
“We do have concerns that the vaccine mandate today will certainly exacerbate the situation,” Menter explained.
How bad can it get for the patient in the ambulance?
“Depending on the level of acuity of the problem, they may wait a long time,” Menter added, “A situation of some high acuity could come in and that may have to go in, right to the front of the line. But still, there’s still people with serious medical conditions that wait.”
Menter said his ambulance service remains in communication with area hospitals to monitor staffing levels. He hasn’t had to divert crews out of the area for 9-1-1 calls but for some health services.
“We’ve had to as far as from Oswego to Albany for a patient that couldn’t get the services they needed in Syracuse because they weren’t available. Rochester’s not uncommon and recently we’ve brought one to Sayre, Pennsylvania,” Menter explained.
While the situation seems out of anyone’s control, you can help.
“We never want to tell someone not to call 9-1-1, but there are times when people call 9-1-1 for problems that didn’t warrant a call to 9-1-1.”
If it’s something you’re primary care doctor can take care of, he encourages that.
Menter Ambulance Service of Oswego County receives about 16,000 calls a year. Menter said 40% of those calls end with crews taking patients to Syracuse area hospitals. The rest stay within the county.