SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Since the pandemic, emergency rooms across the country have been struggling to keep up with patients, and we’ve seen it here at home.

Over the past few years, several viewers have reached out to let NewsChannel 9 know they’ve waited five, ten, even 15 hours to see a doctor at an emergency room in our region.

Now, St. Joseph’s Health Hospital has found a solution.

Erica Hawks is the clinical director of emergency services. At the peak last winter, she says patients were sometimes waiting up to 12 hours to be seen.

Since then, they’ve found a way to adapt. The average wait time now is 19 minutes.

“My leadership team has gone above and beyond to try and create pockets of areas that admitted patients can move to within the house,” said Hawks.

They’ve created a short-stay unit for patients who only need to be in the hospital for two to three days.

“The team was able to get creative and recruit nurses to open these beds,” Hawks said.

The unit is only open Monday through Friday. So, they’re able to attract more nurses and help heal more people.

They also opened up a flex unit. It’s like a holding place for patients between the emergency department and their hospital room upstairs.

“They [patients] hold there for about four hours and then they are transferred off to a medical bed,” Hawks explained.

Between the two new units, they’ve been able to add about 13-15 more beds.

It is wonderful to see the impact, we never like to see our patients waiting. We want to make sure we have the resources to adequately treat any new patient coming into the emergency department.

Erica Hawks

Hawks said they’ve seen a significant improvement.

“85% of our resources were caring for admitted patients. We’re down to 50% and some days we’re at 10%. Our goal is to get back to less than 5% so all our ER resources are available for the community,” she said.

St. Joe’s also has three specialty emergency departments, which she said helps them tackle the amount of patients coming in.

“We have a psychiatric ED, which is called CPEP. We also have an OB ED dedicated to our pregnant mothers. So, that resource is available, therefore, leaving our medical ED more available for incoming medical needs,” she said.