By Kate Santich
Officials in Brevard County are asking residents to limit 911 calls to “true emergencies” because of long waits at local hospitals inundated with COVID-19 patients. The recent surge in hospitalizations have overwhelmed facilities, some of which have had to divert incoming patients elsewhere.
“We want to save the ambulance trips and the emergency rooms for those that are critically sick or injured, just because of the overcrowding,” Brevard Fire Chief Mark Schollmeyer said Thursday. “We’ve experienced wait times in excess of an hour trying to transfer patients over [to the hospital], which creates a hardship on the whole system.”
Brevard ranked 25th in the nation for the rate of COVID-19 infections as of Wednesday, behind all of Florida’s major metropolitan areas, with an 18% rise in new COVID hospital admissions over the previous week. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rate Brevard as a “sustained hotspot” — like most of the rest of Florida.
The county’s hospitals still have plenty of capacity, said Don Walker, communications director for Brevard County Emergency Management. But the emergency rooms have become crowded with people who actually are infected with coronavirus — and those who are simply worried they’re infected.
“If you wake up tomorrow morning with a sore throat and a headache, it may be just a summer allergy. Don’t go to the emergency room,” Walker said. “If you’re really worried, call your doctor, and if your doctor tells you to go to the emergency room, then definitely go.”
Schollmeyer said people with chest pain, shortness of breath, severe abdominal pain, seizures or traumatic injury should seek emergency care.
His rescue crews are also hampered by COVID-19 cases among employees. Of about 450 workers, 19 were in isolation Thursday after testing positive for the virus, and another four were in quarantine following exposure.
“It does put a strain on everybody who is covering for those employees,” the chief said. “We’re all just wanting this to be over with.”