Sacramento area first responders warn about long ambulance wait times

Local News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) — The latest COVID-19 surge is complicating an already tense relationship between fire departments and Sacramento area medical centers. 

The issue is the length of time first responders are forced to wait with patients until hospital staff can take over treatment. 

UC Davis Health said Thursday night the hospital set records for most emergency room patients in a day, twice in just the last few weeks. That is one challenge. 

The other challenge is keeping ambulances on the street ready to respond. According to Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, COVID-19 is only a portion of the problem they have been trying to solve for years now. 

Cellphone video from Metro Fire shows a local hospital’s ER ambulance drop-off area looking like a packed parking lot. 

“It affects the public. This is a public safety issue at this point, and this is something that’s been going on for over a decade,” said Captain Parker Wilbourne. 

Data compiled by the Sacramento County Emergency Medical Services Agency shows that in December alone the average wait time for public and private ambulances at hospitals was over an hour and 15 minutes. 

Wilbourne said his department is now forced to consolidate, meaning one paramedic will look after multiple patients. The move is meant to allow other ambulances and personnel to get back in service for new calls. 

“We are consolidating up to four patients to one paramedic and creating almost a triage within the hospital’s ER,” Wilbourne said. 

Along with money lost to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a month while paramedics wait at ERs, Wilbourne said ambulances may not be able to respond to emergencies fast. 

“We need these ambulances to be back in the field so they can respond to 911 calls. So when you or your family are sick, you are having a cardiac event or some type of a true emergency, you are not waiting an additional five to 10 minutes for an ambulance that’s coming from farther away to come take you to the hospital,” Wilbourne said. 

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