SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - According to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act or HIPAA, there’s nothing illegal about treating patients in hospital hallways. That doesn’t make it ideal for patients or doctors.
Last week, Celia Watts of Macon, GA, waited with her son for nearly 13 hours in the hallways of the Memorial Health emergency room. Watts said nearly 40 other patients were also waiting to be admitted into their own room. Until then, the patients were placed on beds in the hallways, while others were in treatment rooms.
“Someone who has been assigned a private room in an emergency room, they get a restroom. They get somewhere to wash their hands; four walls of privacy," Watts said. "Someone who is in the hallway, they get none of those things. They get the same bill.”
Dr. Jay Goldstein, the Medical Director of Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Department, said flu season has overwhelmed their ER.
“The best and greatest scenario would be to never see a patient in the hallway,” Dr. Goldstein said.
The level one trauma center houses patients in the hallways year-round. Memorial has 74 beds in the ER with 23 additional beds in the halls. Dr. Goldstein said serving patients in the middle of a hallway is not ideal. However, seeing patients in the hallways beats the alternative, waiting without care in the waiting room.
“We went into this because we love patients and we want to do all that we can to take good care of those patients," Dr. Goldstein said. "Unfortunately, sometimes we just have to flex in order to make sure that we take good care of those patients.”
Watts knows the nurses and doctors are doing the best they can, but feels like there must be a better solution at least during the busy flu season.
“It’s no surprise flu season is coming. It’s like clock work, so where is the preparation?”
Dr. Goldstein said the Memorial staff is doing the best they can. On average, the Memorial Health Emergency Department treats nearly 350 patients a day.