Crowded Hospitals

You're likely to find the waiting room full during a mid morning visit at Nacogdoches Memorial Hospital's emergency room. Much like it is in the ER itself. ER Director Robert Y'Barbo knows what's before him. " Seventeen beds and 21 patients in here. [It's been that way ]since about 9 o'clock yesterday morning. " Just before Cathy Huddleston came in with her ailing mother.    " We came from the nursing home yesterday afternoon and we've been waiting for a room every since," said Huddleston.

The patient load began picking up about two weeks ago. Administrator Tim Hayward takes the busy time of year in stride. " This is not an unusual situation for us. Every year and several times throughout the year we find ourselves full. "

Hospital staff is running on adrenaline. About half the ER staff is sick themselves, but they're still working to help get other people well. Every precaution is taken not to spread germs. Frequent hand washing is strictly enforced and staff are told to stay home if they're too sick to work.

No one is turned away, even the person who doesn't have what's considered a true emergency. Those are the ones who can expect a longer wait. Y'Barbo explained,  " You have triage criteria. If they fall in that criteria then they're seen first. If they fall out of that criteria then they're seen when we get a room open."

Doctors are prudent who they admit. After Huddleston's mother was seen by a doctor an important decision was made to return to the nursing home. Huddleston is comfortable with the decision. " I think there's six backed up waiting for rooms, so we kinda decided we're gonna go back."

Shortly afterwards a cheer came from the nurses station. The nurses received the good news of a vacant hospital room.   Dayna Kolb said,  "We're finally starting to move them. They're finally getting moved out. Out upstairs so we can move ours upstairs." The morning discharges had begun, but as long as this round of illness continues, the cycle starts again every night and  morning.

If you get sick here are some tips for a shorter wait.

*Visit your doctor first.
*Uninsured patients can be treated at community health centers.
*Don't forget about outreach clinics. Nacogdoches Memorial has locations in Garrison, Etoile and Cushing. Rural residents and city residents not minding a short drive will find the wait in places like those a lot shorter.
*And remember emergency rooms will treat any ailment, but it's intended for trauma or extreme medical needs.