More Hospital Patients Force Some to Temporarily Close ERs

People move to East Texas for the quality and quantity of medical care. More people living here means more patients go through ER doors.

For 15 hours last Thursday and Friday, Trinity Mother Frances Hospital had to take the rare step of sending ambulances elsewhere.

Jean Coleman, R.N., TMF Chief Nursing Officer:  "The physicians felt like we needed to pause long enough to talk care of the patients in the hospital for a short period of time."

The hospital was on "trauma divert" status. A third of all hospitals nationwide had to do the same in a recent month.  Mother Frances still accepted walk-in patients, but those who called an ambulance during those 15 hours had a choice to make.

Coleman: "[Such as] what type of care they need, what kind of facilities they need when that particular time when the call comes in."

Chuck Spicer of UT Health Center at Tyler: "As we've been up in the 90 percent occupancy rate, it' something that's becoming more challenging."

It's a problem that UTHC faces as well. They've avoided diverting many patients so far, by playing a game of ER strategy.

"One of the top agendas when we come to work every day is trying to stretch that capacity to meet the patient demand," Spicer says.

Jim Parisi, Vice President of Trauma Services at East Texas Medical Center says, "[In East Texas] are more patients seeking treatment in the ER than ever before which is why we have these capacity issues."

No one is immune... at East Texas Medical Center, sometimes they find themselves swamped as well.

They say they manage, and for every hospital, it's a bit of luck.

"The diversion issues here are not as significant as they are in other part of the state... San Antonio, Houston, Austin. They're dealing with this situation on an everyday basis," Parisi says.

Many hospitals are building their solution.

Construction at Mother Frances, UT Health Center, and elsewhere will add hundreds of beds... some breathing room.

A trend that all agree will continue.

In Longview, Good Shepherd Medical Center says they have not had to divert patients.