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Posted on: January 12, 2022

Mercy Hospital Overwhelmed with Patients in ER

Inside Mercy Hospital's emergency department lobby, there are plenty of people waiting to see a doctor, including Grace Anderson.

"It seems to be pretty crowded," Anderson said. She lives in Elk River and came in to the emergency after experiencing severe pain in her leg and foot.

"Well when I first got here they said five hours but I don't think it will be that long," Anderson said.

Nicholas Saggerson from Oak Grove came to Mercy Hospital by ambulance with chest pains. He was lucky enough to get a temporary bed in the emergency department.

"I am trying to get admitted up to a room, but they're so full and busy it's hard to get in," Saggerson said.

Allina Health has not seen a community illness hit patients and staff like the levels of COVID-19. Doctor Michael Schwemm is the emergency services medical director and said that COVID-19 has given him lots of sleepless nights.

"Never in my career could I imagine that we would see extensive medical boarding, by that I mean sick people need to be hospitalized but are sort of stuck in limbo in the emergency department for hours or days on end," Schwemm said.

The emergency department has taken steps to provide extra beds, which are set up in the hallways of the emergency room. People are waiting, sometimes for hours in the lobby and so nurses will come out to take their vitals while they wait. The current surge of Omicron has spread to the hospital staff.

"It's crushing to our department, it's crushing to our ability to take care of patients," said Schwemm.

Ben Thomas is Mercy Hospital's patient care manager for the emergency department and said that morale is low.

"I have staff that have left health care all together to go do something else that is more mentally acceptable from an emotional point," Thomas said.

Many people mistakenly come to the emergency department looking for a COVID test. But hospital staff will quickly direct them, instead, to use one of the community testing sites.

"This has been very difficult and it feels like a marathon,” Schwemm said, “but there's really no finish line right now."

To find a COVID testing site near you, click here.

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