Sierra View at Full Capacity with Very Long Wait Times in ER

Everything looked calm from the outside of the Sierra View Medical Center (SVMC) Thursday morning, but inside there was just no more room for incoming patients.

Thursday around 7:30 a.m. a high census alert was triggered at SVMC due to a high inpatient occupancy. All beds were occupied and people needing to be admitted from the Emergency Department (ED) had to wait for long periods of time.

“We are overloaded,” said Dr. Jeffery Hudson-Covolo, SVMC vice president for Patient Care Services and Chief Nurse Executive. “We’ve seen an increased volume of patients at the hospital. We had been holding up to six patients at a time in the ED, but this morning it was up to 18 patients waiting.”

SVMC opened its command post to make sure patients and staff were safe, utilizing all of their resources and trying to be as efficient as possible to get as many patients discharged and safely back to alternative care settings.

Dr. Hudson-Covolo said patients are encouraged to go to their primary doctors, urgent care facilities or clinics first to try to take some pressure off the SVMC emergency room. Otherwise, patients are sitting at that ED waiting hours to be seen.

ED is currently admitting patients, but if patients are not experiencing anything life threatening, they must wait a long period of time to be seen.

“Now we are holding patients in the operating room too because there are no beds left,” added Dr. Hudson-Covolo. “We were at 119 acute care patients this morning at 7 a.m., and our average daily census is somewhere in the 70’s, so you can see that’s a big jump for us even to just staff that amount of patients.”

Dr. Hudson-Covolo mentioned this happens occasionally during winter, but they hadn’t had to open up the command center in a long time.

“We will evaluate every 12 hours as to whether we need to keep the command structure opened to facilitate everything,” added Dr. Hudson-Covolo. “We started this morning with 18 holds in the ED, and we currently have 15. We’ve admitted two patients by 9:30 a.m., and as we discharge patients we are admitting patients.”

Dr. Hudson-Covolo said they’ve seen a lot of flu patients, who are tremendously impacting pediatrics patients, but are seeing some adults as well.

“We do have the flu as an impact, but overall it’s a winter thing like sepsis, where people get infections like a bladder infection, pneumonia, or something like that,” added Dr. Hudson-Covolo. “We are seeing strokes, heart attacks — all the normal things that we see in the winter time, but it’s just the large volume.”

Dr. Hudson-Covolo thinks the high volume of patients is due to many physicians closing their practices during the holidays.

“SVMC is the only hospital around. It’s not like you can divert and go to another hospital in town,” said Dr. Hudson-Covolo. “It’s a long ways to another hospital. We are trying to accommodate all the emergencies that still happen and need to come in by ambulance.

“Patients with a true life threatening emergency please come to the emergency room. We absolutely want to take care of the emergencies, but what we are talking about is those low-end urgent care issues, clinic type situations like sore throats, ear aches, coughs, minor illness — all of those should be seen outside of the hospital.”