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Long wait times at emergency rooms across metro Atlanta

Flu season, staff shortages, and AMC's closure creates perfect storm for increasing hospital wait times.

ATLANTA — Wait times at Atlanta area hospitals continue to rise with more patients sent to them now that Wellstar AMC’s ER has closed.

“It’s full, it’s full the hospital is packed,” said Lithonia resident Kiwanis B. Kiwanis, who waited more than an hour in the emergency room at Emory Hillandale Hospital, before saying she’d had enough and left without being seen by a doctor.   

“It’s a little too crowded and I couldn’t - it was too crowded. And I really need to see them, but I’m not able to because it’s so crowded," added Kiwanis.

Other patients are feeling similar frustrations all over metro Atlanta, as several area hospitals are operating at or close to capacity right now.  

According to GeorgiaCoordinatingCenter.org, a site used by EMS workers to determine where an ambulance should take patients, eight of the 10 hospitals in Fulton County are considered “busy” and at capacity. Cobb’s two hospitals are both listed on the site as severely overcrowded, as are two Gwinnett hospitals, with a third at critical capacity.

RELATED: Long wait times, lack of space | Medical professionals detail difficulties as they prepare for AMC closure

“Hospital volumes are increasing particularly around the fall and winter months as we see optics in COVID-19, influenza, RSV,” said Dr. Katrina Gibson, an Assistant Professor of Emergency Medicine at Emory.

But Dr. Gibson said the problem is multifold and includes the increase in patient volume caused by the closing of AMC’s ER, as well as more people with long-term chronic illnesses, and a shortage of nurses and other staff.

“In addition to understanding the shortage of physical space, some of this is also attributed to shortages in the workforce," said Gibson.

And, as healthcare workers come up with solutions to decrease wait times, residents are reacting.

“I don’t think it’s good. I think they should have better urgency and wait time,” said resident Mohammed Bah.

Emory Healthcare issued issued a statement Monday evening, saying they are experiencing longer wait times in their emergency rooms, "following the tapering and closure of services of Wellstar Atlanta Medical Center and its emergency room."

"The closure places additional stress and strain on local hospitals and care team members that continue to face workforce challenges and a surge in volumes, including those with respiratory illnesses such as flu," Janet Christenbury, the director of media relations at Emory, said in a statement. "We are actively engaged with government leaders, civic partners and other health care systems to address the issues and find short-and long-term sustainable solutions that will support the health of our community."

"We are also working to expand some of our emergency rooms and hire additional staff to assist with larger volumes of patients expected," the statement said. 

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