All 8 Ohio county hospitals placed on EMS bypass for several hours
On Monday evening, Lucas County first responders were notified that all hospitals were on EMS bypass due to staffing shortages and an influx of COVID-19 and critical patients
Brooks Sutherland and Jim Provance
The Blade, Toledo, Ohio
TOLEDO, Ohio — Most Lucas County hospitals returned to normal emergency treatment operations Tuesday morning after all hospitals were placed on EMS bypass for several hours the night prior.
And one — the University of Toledo Medical Center — still remained closed to trauma patients even later on Tuesday.
While on bypass, hospitals remain open, but they stop accepting emergency transports. They may be open to specific EMS patients, such as trauma patients.
"The problem [Monday] night is when it got to the point that there were only two that were open and six were closed," said Pvt. Sterling Rahe, a spokesman with the Toledo Fire & Rescue Department. "When those two finally closed, what happens then is they basically go on a red alert and all eight hospitals open up and they begin to try to evenly distribute those transports to the hospitals...based on their workload and what's happening at their hospitals."
The hospital trouble in Toledo comes as coronavirus cases are climbing, especially among young patients.
Paula Grieb, chief nursing officer for ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children's Hospital, said during Gov. Mike DeWine's coronavirus briefing Tuesday that the Toledo hospital has seen a surge in the number of children testing positive. Last week, there were more than 2,100 who tested positive for the virus.
The share of tests coming back positive has risen to 12.7 percent, compared to about 8 percent four weeks ago. The hospital is being "overrun" at nearly all access points by sick children since the resumption of school, she said.
She pointed specifically to the widespread emergency department bypass that occurred in Lucas County Monday night, something she called "very significant and very frightening."
"It's the first time it's ever occurred and, in any of our recollection of the last 30 years, [it] was unprecedented for that to occur," she said. "That means that you don't necessarily go to the emergency department that's closest to your home or most likely suited to take care of your direct patient needs.
"It speaks to the volume of sick people that are being managed in our system," Ms. Grieb said. "Certainly, that impact included our Ebeid Children's Hospital emergency department as well."
The Toledo-area hospital incident started about 10:30 Monday night, when area first responders were notified that all hospitals were on EMS bypass. The cause of bypass is typically related to a number of different factors such as staffing challenges, capacity, and an uptick in people receiving medical evaluations at hospital emergency centers.
Ginger Petrat, a spokesman for McLaren St. Luke's Hospital, said the EMS bypass caused at the Maumee-based health center was not because of an increase in coronavirus patients but rather a "surge of patients requiring critical care."
"This is not the result of COVID-19 hospitalizations," Ms. Petrat said in a statement to The Blade. "It is due to very sick individuals requiring a high level of care."
Life-threatening emergencies should not be delayed or ignored, she said.
"Individuals experiencing signs of a stroke, heart attack, or other life-threatening condition should always call 911," she added.
Staffing challenges, because of an increase in coronavirus patients, did cause Mercy Health hospitals to enter into EMS bypass, spokesman Erica Blake said in a statement.
"Like many other health care institutions across the nation, Mercy Health is experiencing staffing challenges as well as a significant increase in COVID patients, especially within our hospital walls," she said. "As a result and to ensure the safety of all of our patients, Mercy Health facilities went on EMS bypass on the evening of Sept. 13."
"While EMS bypass has long been a tool used to alleviate overcrowding in our emergency departments, it is rare that all area hospitals experience this level of need," the statement continued.
During the Ohio governor's briefing, Ms. Grieb also joined with other representatives of children's hospitals across the state in directly urging local schools to fight coronavirus spread by imposing face mask mandates for both students and employees.
Mr. DeWine noted that about 54 percent of all K-12 students in the state now attend schools that have mask mandates, and he called on more schools to join them.
But don't look to him to issue a statewide mandate.
"If I could put on a statewide mandate, if the health department could do it, we would do it," the governor said. "What the legislature has made very clear is if we put on a statewide mandate, they will take it off. They have the ability to do that. There is no 30-day waiting period. They can do it right away.
"If that happens, we would cause, it seems to me, a lot of confusion. We might go backwards," he said.
He noted that he vetoed Senate Bill 22, the law that gave lawmakers the authority to directly intervene with such emergency health orders, but the General Assembly controlled by fellow Republicans overrode that veto.
The governor has made in-person classroom instruction a priority this year, compared to much of last year when schools had to rely on virtual learning.
The Ohio Department of Health on Tuesday reported 111 more coronavirus deaths and 7,325 new infections, both well above their three-week averages. The number of new cases, however, was below the delta variant-era high of more than 9,000 reported on Friday.
There were also unusually high numbers of new hospitalizations, 344, and intensive-care unit admissions, 23.
(c)2021 The Blade (Toledo, Ohio)