St. Joseph’s Hospital CEO says ER wait times highest since beginning of the pandemic

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV)– When a Lewis County resident was having severe abdominal pain he knew he needed to go to the emergency room, but he had no idea what was in store for him when he arrived.

“I waited 17 hours and 40 minutes to see a healthcare provider,” Joe C. said.

That’s 17 hours over the national average, could something like this really happen? We asked the CEO of St. Joe’s to find out. 

“To whoever it was, I truly apologize, we don’t want it that way. I can’t address that individual case, but I can say yes, it’s a good possibility that it actually happened,” Leslie Luke said.

And Luke said the reason for the long wait is a combination of factors all fueled by the pandemic.

“Places to discharge patients to are either not accepting those patients back, cannot accept those patients back, or we can’t discharge to the patients home because there’s no home health agency care,” he said.

That means fewer beds are available for ER patients like Joe and the wait times are much longer. These circumstances are on top of a national staffing shortage and a vaccine mandate that’s caused the hospital to let go of 78 staff members. 

“They knew well in advance that this was going to take place…they dropped the ball, they really should have considered what they were going to do if these people left,” Joe C. said. 

Luke said they are working on new programs to treat ER patients with less severe issues first and looking into telehealth options, but for now, he’s asking for the community’s help.

“What I would recommend is before you come to an emergency department ask yourself several questions or your loved one may need to ask: Is this a life-threatening emergency? Do I have a compound fracture? Am I having seizures? Is this a trauma? Have I lost consciousness? Do I have a fever above 105? And if those answers to all of those things are no then I highly recommend that instead of coming to the emergency department you see your primary care provider in the clinic or at the most go to urgent care centers.”

Leslie Luke, St. Joseph’s Hospital CEO

As for long-term solutions to the long wait times, Luke said that will come when more people get vaccinated.  

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