Some ambulances waiting hours outside ERs to bring patients in

Bay Area hospitals are severely strained with COVID cases. Some ambulances in the South Bay are waiting for hours outside of emergency rooms. It’s another symptom of the hospital crisis amid this latest coronavirus surge.

In the last week, Santa Clara County officials said a handful of ambulances pulled up to hospital bays and had to wait hours outside of emergency departments to get a patient in.

"It’s tragic because we know what we need to do as a community to keep the level of COVID cases down, low enough to avoid this kind of strain on our hospital system," said County Counsel James Williams.

Williams said a large number of patients have had to wait inside emergency departments for hours for beds as well. He attributes all of it to the current COVID surge.

In Santa Clara County, nearly 700 people are hospitalized with COVID and COVID patients take up almost half of ICU beds. The number of available ICU beds has gone from 54 in the beginning of December to now 34.

"This level of surge is not normal, to have so many patients flooding hospitals with Covid is extremely concerning," said Williams.

KTVU spoke to a county EMS staffer in charge of monitoring ambulance wait times, who said on Dec. 27, three patients had to wait more than six hours for a bed at San Jose’s Regional Medical Center. One patient waited for eight hours. The hospital said it’s improved its wait times since then.

In hard-hit Los Angeles, the area is not only dealing with wait times for ambulances but taxed oxygen systems. The city is now relying on help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help deliver oxygen.

"We are grateful to be able to support these men and women these heroes and do this mission," said Col. Julie Balten, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

"Our hope is that we don't end up where LA is but we are certainly worried about it," said Williams.

In the last week, county officials said, on more than five occasions San Jose Fire assisted with transferring patients because ambulances were not available.

Regional Medical Center is prioritizing patients. Nobody with a critical need has had to wait for a bed.