ER wait times increasing as COVID cases rise

Reporter: Breana Ross Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:
Cape Coral Hospital. Credit: WINK News.

Wait times at the emergency room are increasing as COVID-19 cases are on the rise. Currently, the average wait time at Lee Health Emergency rooms is between four and fives hours.

While reporters are not allowed inside the ER, we did get pictures from a WINK News viewer detailing what the emergency room experience is currently like. On Monday, she went to HealthPark Medical Center’s ER with a family member for a non-COVID-19 health issue. She says she wants everyone watching to see what she went through.

Long ER lines have patients sitting outside and sleeping on benches as they await care. This is what a surge in ER visits looks like.

Dr. Timothy Dougherty is the emergency department director at Cape Coral Hospital. “On top of our normal, expected increased volume, COVID has also increased, and flu this year has also increased our volumes,” said Dr. Dougherty.

On Monday, Dr. Dougherty’s ER department saw 259 patients. Gulf Coast Medical Center saw 279 patients in its ER. Lee Memorial Hospital saw 220 patients. And 164 patients were treated at HealthPark.

All of these numbers are higher than usual. “Unfortunately, we are seeing patients that are coming purely for testing,” Dr. Dougthery said. He would rather people use urgent care centers for testing, like Coastal Urgent Care, that’s right across the street from his hospital, instead of the ER.

But, the demand for tests is higher there too. On Tuesday morning, a line stretched around the parking lot at Coastal Urgent Care as people attempted to avoid going to the hospital. Eddie Schulze lives in Cape Coral. “It’s just easier to come here rather than sit in the hospital for two days to get a test,” Schulze said.

“I want people to use common sense at this time and realize that it should be common sense, not convenience, to make that decision who comes to the emergency department and who doesn’t,” Dr. Dougherty said.

Again the wait times at Lee Health are between four and five hours. NCH could not put an exact number to its wait times, but it did say they would be hours long. Physicians Regional Hospital says its wait times are down despite the surge in COVID-19 cases, sitting at an average of 30 minutes.

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