East Texas hospitals fill up, divert patients to other facilities

East Texas hospitals fill up, divert patients to other facilities

(KYTX) -  Hospitals throughout East Texas are having to turn sick patients away from emergency rooms, because they are too full.

When hospital rooms fill up and resources are drained, hospitals go "on divert" meaning they have to send patients to other hospitals.

As of 6 p.m. Thursday, Trinity Mother Frances, ETMC and Good Shepherd in Longview are open and accepting patients. UT Health Northeast and Longview Regional Medical Center are full and on divert.

The problem is, these ERs are so busy that these statuses can change every hour. 

Charlotte Davis knows how that is. She sifts through packets of paper, detailing her husband's three recent Tyler hospital stays.

Barry Davis has been suffering mini strokes.  His second episode was in early December, when East Texas hospitals began filling up with upper respiratory and flu patients.

"We were being taken from Longview to Trinity Mother Frances where he had previously been, and because at that time, Trinity Mother Frances was full, we were diverted in an ambulance to ETMC," Davis says.

The couple was thankful to end up in any hospital.

"There were people who had been there for hours and were so mad we got to go in first, because we were more critical need," Davis says.

Even then, the Davis' waited more than 5 hours to be admitted. Trinity Mother Frances ER Chief, Dr. Luis Haro, calls them lucky. Some patients have had to wait 24 to 36 hours for a room. Those are the longest wait times he's ever seen.

In times like this, hospitals have to divert even extremely critical patients.

"We had a gunshot in an outlying community that we could not accept and we were holding that patient for hours before we could transfer him somewhere, so the stakes are very high," Dr. Haro says. 

The big question is, what happens if all the East Texas hospitals fill up?

"I know that I heard from the nurses and doctors at the hospital when we were there, that they were diverting people by helicopter, by ambulance to Dallas because it was too full here," Davis says. 

It's a state wide crisis, meaning hospitals all over Texas are coordinating with each other every couple hours as they go on and off divert status.

Typically, hospitals here only have to send patients away for two hours tops. This year, they've had to divert patients for up to 18 hours, which shows the magnitude of the problem they're dealing with.

One huge contributing factor is that this year the flu-like illnesses are much more severe, so more patients are needing to be admitted.

We're also told a lot of doctors and nurses are sick too, so hospitals are low on manpower.

Doctors are begging you to get a vaccine, if you haven't already, especially if you're older than 65, or have lung problems or diabetes.


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