Staffing shortages, high demand force diversions at hospitals across metro

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Georgia Coordinating Center showed nearly every hospital across metro Atlanta in the severe category.
Published: Jul. 12, 2022 at 6:18 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. (CBS46) - High demand, coupled with staffing shortages, are leading to long wait times and overcrowding at hospitals across the metro, causing some to go into diversion.

When a family member of Susan Smith’s started showing signs of a stroke Wednesday morning, she rushed him to Emory university Hospital on Clifton Road.

“He had blurry vision, was obviously pale and shaky, and it happened twice. So, it was like we need to go to the emergency room,” Smith said.

Smith said they saw a doctor after waiting for an hour and a half, tests were done but, she said the whole process took longer than usual. They were in the emergency room for more than 12 hours.

“There was no care in patient care,” Smith said. “It was chaotic, traumatic, but I don’t think my, our situation is unique. I think it’s a symptom or sign of a bigger problem.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Georgia Coordinating Center showed nearly every hospital across metro Atlanta in the severe category including Emory’s main campus, where the hospital is “nearing capacity” and the ER is in diversion. Diversion statuses apply to ambulance transport.

“We’re doing the best we can with the resources we have,” said Anna Adams, a spokesperson for the Georgia Hospital Association.

Adams said it’s not unusual to see high hospital volume this time of year. However, she said the BA.5 variant is partly driving the demand.

“We’re at about 7.1 percent of hospital inpatients are COVID positive and we can likely attribute that increase to this new BA.5 variant,” she said.

Staffing shortages are also posing a challenge for hospitals.

“We don’t have a single hospital in the state that isn’t feeling the pain of not being able to adequately staff their ERs, their in-patient floors and so there having to make decisions about whether or not to keep certain beds and services operational,” Smith said. “That has an impact on diversion status.”

Adams said healthcare systems are trying to be creative in filling the void.

“We know our nurses are exhausted, many of them burned out, a lot of retiring we’re seeing,” she added. So, as those trends continue many are partnering with their local educational systems, technical schools, universities to increase that nursing workforce pipeline.”

Smith, who is a former nurse, is thankful her loved one’s situation was not as dire as they originally thought, but she’s concerned about if there’s a next time.

“We were one of many waiting,” she said. “It was disappointing.”

Emory Healthcare sent the following statement in response to our inquiry:

The well-being of our patients, care team members, and community are top priorities at Emory Healthcare. Across the country, workforce challenges and staffing shortages have impacted the operations and wait times for many industries and businesses including Emory Healthcare.

Emory Healthcare operations and care teams are working to optimize patient care delivery, access to our providers and reduce wait times for patients and families. We are also highly focused on supporting our current workforce, while adding new qualified team members to continue providing exceptional care to our community.

When hospitals experience surges in patients combined with workforce challenges, different diversion statuses may be reported to the Georgia Coordinating Center. These diversion statuses mean ambulances should consider transporting patients to other local facilities, if possible. Diversion does not apply to individuals who walk-in or drive to an emergency room seeking emergency care.