LITTLE ROCK, Ark – Wait times from the ambulance inside hospital doors are getting longer at UAMS in Little Rock.
Dr. Rawle Seupaul is the Emergency Medicine Chair at UAMS and said a process to transport the patient from the ambulance to a bed would typically take about 30 minutes.
Recently, it’s taken up to 3 to 4 hours in some cases.
“There’s a risk to the timeliness of care, there’s a risk to quality and efficiency of care,” Seupaul said.
Dr. Seupal said the delay in wait time is due to a combination of not enough beds and a staff shortage at the hospital.
“If we don’t have a bed to put that patient in or we don’t have a nurse or a physician that can take that report, then the safest thing to the patient is to remain with that EMS crew,” Dr. Seupaul said.
While the patient waits in the ambulance for an open bed, EMS is taking care of them which means they can’t go to respond to other calls.
“It’s unacceptable for the community that depends on the availability of those EMS staff to be where they need to be quick to assess for a medical or traumatic emergency,” Seupaul said.
Kevin Kelley with the Arkansas Ambulance Association said the long wait times aren’t just happening in Little Rock.
“Volumes are up all over the state,” Kelley said.
Kelley said it’s worse in rural communities where one to two ambulances are running the entire area.
Kelley said if one of those gets tied up it could be a 12-14 hour call.
UAMS said they are hoping with more vaccinations, cases and hospitalizations will start to slow.
Until then Dr. Seupaul said his staff at UAMS will weather the storm, and try to care for as many patients as they can.