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Why are large emergency rooms going on ‘diversion’ more often? Are patients being turned away?

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  • Staff Report 

More often than not local hospitals are having to go on ‘diversion status’.

It used to be reserved for truly unusual circumstances. However, it’s happening more often now, leaving many wondering what’s to blame.

“Diversion status is basically our communication to EMS or emergency medical services or the ambulance corps that we are currently in volume-overload in the emergency department,” Dr. Keith Grams, Chair of Emergency Medicine told WROC-TV. “Unfortunately in 2020 and 2021 and the beginning of 2022 we’ve seen that happen a few times.”

During these situations patient safety is the #1 priority. It’s not ideal, but it happens, and with shortages in the healthcare industry – it’s to be expected on occasion. For Rochester General, Grams estimates that the hospital has entered diversion around a half dozen times in the last two years.

Why is it happening, though?

COVID-19 hospitalizations are not what they were a year or two ago. However, the lingering impact of the virus is real. Meaning, hospital capacity is still low – even if for a different reason.

The biggest issue is staffing. Due to staffing shortages – there are fewer ‘beds’ at the hospital. If staffing levels return to pre-pandemic rates, then hospitals like RGH would have more ‘beds’.

It comes down to what the staff can safely handle.

Is anyone being turned away?

Absolutely not. Hospital officials across the board say that no matter the ‘status’ life-threatening illnesses or incidents are accepted and treated with priority.

It’s the not-life threatening stuff that gets pushed down the chain, or possibly outsourced to another facility.

The biggest challenge, especially when it comes to walk-ins to hospitals, is conveying that information to the public in real-time. It’s easy enough to contact ambulance service providers and let first responders know that a specific facility is on diversion. It’s a separate challenge trying to convey that real-time information to residents who might be experiencing a medical emergency and looking to seek out care themselves.