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AMR experiencing 'offloading issues' amid COVID-19 surge in WNY

"When a hospital reaches capacity, they have nowhere to offload an ambulance," says AMR's chief EMS officer.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — As COVID-19 hospital admissions surge, the region's largest EMS provider says it's seeing delays in getting patients the care they need.

Inside many local hospitals, beds are hard to come by, with many hospitals telling us they're either at or overcapacity. 

That's having a direct impact on local ambulance providers, such as AMR,  which says they're also seeing higher call volume. 

"When a hospital reaches capacity, they have nowhere to offload an ambulance and to go ahead and put the ambulance in an emergency room bed, if you're not able to get your admitted patients upstairs, then not able to offload the ambulances," said Scott Karaszewski, AMR's chief EMS officer.

This then causes delays in the system. Karaszewski says patients are then taken elsewhere. 

"We work with our hospital partners to come up with systems and figure out different types of solutions out there to be able to work together," Karaszewski said. 

But, even that can be difficult in the heat of the moment. 

"It's a challenge right now because obviously everybody's seeing the overcapacity, so that makes it a challenge for the men and women in the streets to try to advocate for their patients," Karaszewski said. 

In hopes of conserving hospital beds, Governor Kathy Hochul, through executive order will allow the Department of Health to limit non-essential procedures in hospitals with limited capacity starting on Friday.

Starting Monday, ECMC has a new visitation policy which includes no visitation for COVID patients, except in end of life situations. Catholic Health also announced visitor limitations.

To increase hospital bed capacity, inpatient elective surgeries remain suspended at ECMC. 

Medical officials urge anyone experiencing mild symptoms of illness to first call their doctor or go to an urgent care center. And, don't call 911 unless you have a real emergency. They're also asking people to follow local COVID protocols. 

AMR says they're also dealing with staffing shortages, which is why they've implemented an Earn While You Learn program.