Busy ER leads to divert status - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Busy ER leads to divert status

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February 20, 2008

Albany--  It was a rare occurrance at one of Albany's two hospitals Tuesday afternoon. Phoebe Putney's Emergency Center got so busy they had to to tell all Dougherty County ambulances to hold off on patients.

About 1:30 Tuesday afternoon, Phoebe's Emergency Center was at capacity. There were 78 patients and 6 ambulances in the bay.

"It's what happens when we have a very crowded situation," said Debra Williamson.

Because of the crowded load, they had to go into what's called EC Divert Status. "I've been here for 19 years and this is only maybe the third time that we've used that," said Williamson.

Phoebe only has to use it in extreme situations.  This time, a variety of ailments caused it. "It's really not any one thing. It's the flu. It's strokes. It's motor vehicle accidents. It's just been a little bit of everything this time," said Williamson.

So with all those things happening at once, the hospital has to get on the horn with emergency responders.  "We call the local EMS and tell them that we are going to be on EC Divert which would then mean that the patients would then go to Palmyra," said Williamson.

Palmyra would then take the extra load when necessary. Phoebe's Vice-President of Critical Care Debra Williamson says on the rare occasion that this does happen, patient safety isn't put at risk.

"We still have our obligation to the community. What EC Divert does is give us a few minutes to kind of get our patients to where they need to be so we can get that flow moving through the emergency center," said Williamson.

That added up to a little more than an hour this go round. That's when flow was increased, meaning more breathing room for emergencies to come in.

This did not affect walk-in patients. Both Phoebe and Dougherty County paramedics say if a patient insists on a certain hospital, they abide by that request. EMS says they didn't have to divert any patients Tuesday afternoon.

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