‘Something has to change:’ Emergency room doctors, patients struggling with wait times

Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 5:53 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Several people claim they’ve waited too long in emergency rooms to be seen by a doctor.

Emergency rooms in Savannah and nationwide are facing some of the highest volumes doctors have ever seen. And one woman says a packed ER resulted in her waiting too many hours for care.

A painful and unforgettable experience for Jodi Caggigie. She said she was having a gallbladder attack and went to Memorial Hospital’s Emergency Room on February 6th and it took nearly eight hours for her to see a doctor.

“It was the worst thing I’ve ever seen. It was shocking.”

When Jodi Caggigie got to Memorial, she saw “tons of people” and she says she knew she’d be waiting awhile.

“I was in pain pretty much the whole time. I didn’t get into the back until midnight. I got there at 4:30. They took me back immediately within an half an hour just to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack.”

But she says that wasn’t wasn’t the worst part of her experience. It was so crowded, she says people screaming in pain had to be treated in the hallways.

“The nurses told me people are dying in the hallways. They don’t have rooms to put them in.”

Caggigie believes it’s taking a toll on staff.

“They said it’s like that every single day and he said it so exacerbated. I felt so bad for the workers.”

Head of Memorial Health’s Emergency Department Dr. John Sy says their ER is witnessing some of it’s highest volumes ever. He says a physician’s assistant typically checks on a patient immediately and they don’t usually have long wait times.

“In general we don’t have, kind of what you’re saying, those six, eight, 10 hour wait times. Sometimes their time in the emergency department depending on how severe their illness could take hours to get the full evaluation done,” said Dr. Sy.

WTOC heard from several people claiming they’ve had to wait to see a doctor for as long as Caggigie at Memorial, Candler and St. Joseph’s hospitals.

“We’ve got a nurse that’s in the lobby, that’s seeing our patients and she makes that determination...are you sick enough that you need to come right back. If you’re sick or having a stroke, you’re having a heart attack, we’ll get you back,” said Dr. Billy Rawlings, the director of St. Joseph’s/Candler Emergency Services.

Both doctors say many are struggling to get in doctor’s offices, which could play a role in ERs being packed out. Dr. Sy lack of insurance plays a role as well.

Regardless, Caggigie feels “something has to change.”

Caggie did email the state surgeon general about her experience.

Doctors urge people to go to emergency rooms for emergencies only and try an urgent care with dealing with minor issues. They say this will help free up more beds. Dr. Sy also feels more stand alone ERs could improve the issue.