PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – With the COVID-19 numbers in the county rising, wait times at emergency rooms across Pinellas County are increasing.
Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton calls the situation very concerning.
“What has happened now, is our ER’s are literally full and our ambulances are having delays in responses,” said Burton. “They’re waiting … It used to be 15 minutes, you pull up, sign a patient in, ambulance is gone. Now they are waiting an hour. We had one other case the other night that was a three-hour wait time.”
And if ambulances have to wait for space to drop off patients, you’ll have to wait if you or a loved one has to make a trip to the emergency room.
Clearwater Fire Rescue Division Chief John Klinefelter says the situation is having a domino effect for first responders. Generally, a private ambulance company will transport patients from scenes, but since those ambulances are tied up waiting at emergency rooms, fire rescue crews are transporting patients when they can.
Klinefelter says last year the department transported 22-patients in a six-month period. Since the beginning of July, the department has transported 159 patients.
“When the ambulances are backed up because the emergency rooms are backed up, our crews are sitting on scene even longer,” said Chief Klinefelter. “Waiting for a transport unit to show up to be able to turn the patient over so they can be ready for that next call. “
Burton says currently the county’s vaccination rate for those over the age of 12 is 63 percent. He believes if those who aren’t vaccinated choose to get vaccinated, that could dramatically improve the situation.
“We’re seeing 35-year-olds without underlying health conditions that are in our ER. And that’s not one or two cases, that’s all the time,” said Burton. “This delta variant is a new ball game and it needs to be taken seriously.”