Full hospitals are impacting EMS operations in Mississippi

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 9:07 PM CDT

JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Over capacity hospitals are something you’ve heard about in Mississippi for days now. But what does that mean if you have an emergency?

Pafford EMS Medical Director Dr. Mike Seymou noted that other emergencies still happen.

“If you come in by ambulance to a hospital, there’s not a bed to put you in,” said Seymour. “So you just stand in the hallway on the gurney, there’s no place to put you, there’s no place to treat you.”

Dr. Damon Darsey, emergency/EMS physician and patient care service at St. Dominic’s medical director for PatientCare EMS, says the impact isn’t just on the hospital. But EMS crews.

“As you enter the healthcare system, whether they come from a clinic, emergency room or an ambulance, they all come into one location,” said Darsey. “Right now the ambulance services are being bottle-necked. At the one point where we are bottle-necking in the hospital... that’s emergency department. And so what we are learning from our EMS crews is they are truly our unsung heroes here.”

Then, add in the challenge with COVID.

“We can’t bring a COVID positive patient into the ER wide open,” noted Darsey. “Right? So, we have some workarounds to figure out where they stay. Sometimes paramedics are staying with with him in the ambulance for extended periods of time.”

And that creates a domino effect whether they’re waiting with a COVID patient or another emergency.

“It’s a balance between trying to keep resources available to respond, and trying to be a fair partner to the hospitals,” described Seymour. “We know they’re in the same boat, too.”

For all those reasons, Dr. Damon Darsey wants you to stop and think before you dial 911.

“It’s not going to get you in the ER faster, it’s not going to get you in the door faster, seen faster,” he said. “That’s a myth that we need to debunk, because we need our guys and girls out there answering calls that are emergent. So think about what’s urgent, what’s emergent, and urgent is a stumped toe... emergency, a severed leg.”

The state health officer issued an order this week allowing paramedics the ability to provide care in hospital settings. Darsey says he’s hopeful that could open the way for federal paramedic help, but doesn’t believe the staffing is high enough to pull from existing staff for that purpose.

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