MUSC Lancaster dealing with long wait times, staffing main issue

The Medical University of South Carolina’s Lancaster (MUSC Lancaster) hospital is feeling the pressure. In some cases, people were forced to wait 15 hours or more to be seen.
The Medical University of South Carolina’s Lancaster (MUSC Lancaster) hospital is feeling the pressure.
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 6:50 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 22, 2021 at 9:11 PM EDT
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LANCASTER, S.C. (WBTV) - Hospitals across the country are battling the second COVID-19 surge of the year.

The delta variant has left emergency departments slammed with people waiting hours and hours for care.

The Medical University of South Carolina’s Lancaster (MUSC Lancaster) hospital is feeling the pressure. In some cases, people were forced to wait 15 hours or more to be seen.

Windi Bahl happily played with her service dog after coming back from the VA hospital in Salisbury - where she has been going ever since her experience at MUSC Lancaster’s emergency department.

”For 15 hours I sat there and they don’t check on you. It’s just complete and utter chaos basically,” says Windi Bahl.

Bahl went in after experiencing excruciating pain on her right side.

”I felt forgotten. I definitely felt forgotten,” says Bahl.

It is the same feeling Amanda Bennett felt when she waited for more than 10 hours to be seen for what ended up being a stroke.

”It feels really bad to feel that way especially the fact that after leaving there I was still feeling as bad as I was when I came in,” says Bennett.

Much like other hospitals, at MUSC Lancaster - if you come to the emergency department you are not going to get turned away, but the hospital staff is dealing with what they call bottleneck wait times for three reasons.

  • The first is staffing. MUSC Lancaster is dealing with a 15 percent vacancy right now with a big need for nurses. The less staff the less rooms they can fill.
  • The second issue is what they call emergency department (ED) boarding. ED boarding is the process of transferring patients from the emergency room to an inpatient bed where they can get specific care. Because of the influx of patients both COVID-related and not, that process is taking much longer than usual.
  • The last reason is a recent uptick in what the hospital calls behavioral health patients. More people are coming to the ED with mental health issues or after mental health episodes.

Chief Medical Officer Edward McCutcheon says these problems should not discourage anyone from coming to the ED.

”All the hospitals are having the same challenges. There are a lot of factors that are playing into the way we provide care currently, but we are committed to provide the best emergency care,” says McCutcheon.

”It’s distressing right,” says Scott Broome.

MUSC Lancaster CEO Scott Broome’s distress comes from these long wait times people are going through.

”We do our absolute best to manage wait times and we have not been as successful in that these last 10 weeks as I would like,” says Broome.

Staffing issues, less bed usage because of that and more patients both COVID and non-COVID have been eating away at the hospitals wait time track record. Staffing being the biggest issue driving the delays.

Here is how the hospital works:

When someone comes into the emergency department, a person assesses the person’s needs with what is called triage. Triage is when a nurse gets all of the medical information for the person’s sickness or injury so the nurses can know who to treat first. This is all dependent on how bad the injury or sickness.

However, McCutcheon says the people who are coming into the ER do not see what is happening behind the scenes. McCutcheon says ambulances are coming in bringing patients that need immediate care. That is also another reason why the people in the waiting rooms are waiting longer.

Broome says they need to hire more people to fill that 15 percent vacancy.

”The best solution to address the need and the bottle necks that we have and to flow patients through the care process is to have more staff,” he says.

Broome says they are trying to get creative to achieve that. A more condensed hiring process to get people started quicker and requiring all staff to be vaccinated are their top solutions. It is a few things that Broome feels could help improve week by week as COVID continues to change the way hospitals work.

”We’re messaging this as a new normal and we need to learn to operate within this environment,” he says.

MUSC Lancaster is not currently on diversion. According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control’s data, there have 61 percent of hospital beds occupied.

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