SANTA CLARA COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- In Santa Clara County, the hospital system is so stretched thin that at times ambulances are having to wait several hours to offload patients. It's the latest example of how hospitals across the region are stretched thin as ICU admissions continue to rise.
"We take for granted on a daily basis that if we have an emergency, whatever the need, on a moment's notice we can call 911, we can get into an emergency room, we can get into an ICU bed if there's an accident, trauma, heart attack, stroke," James Williams, the Santa Clara county counsel told ABC7 News.
"And what's happening now is because of the volume, because of the impact on hospitals, we're seeing these wait times, we're seeing these back-ups in emergency rooms, and that concerns us a lot."
The San Jose Fire Department has even had to step in to help. They transported roughly six patients this past week because of the wait time issue, according to the county.
"All of our hospitals are feeling these impacts. It's not just one or town," Williams said.
Williams said a number of patients are being kept in emergency departments waiting for a hospital bed to open up, which is also contributing to the wait times.
ABC7 News went to hospital emergency rooms in San Jose on Monday afternoon. We did not see ambulances lined up waiting. Williams said this is expected and that the numbers change minute by minute.
"We're having increased sporadic incidents getting up above even 7 hours, but that's only happening on occasion," he said, "But if that happens to you, when you need the access, it doesn't matter to you what the overall average is over an extended period of time."
Not all Bay Area counties are yet at this tipping point. In Marin County, Dr. Dustin Ballard, the medical director for the Marin Emergency Services, said the median ambulance wait time. is currently between 13 and 17 minutes. The highest it's been is around 30 minutes, which is the state's standard.
Still, the situation in Santa Clara County is reason enough for neighboring counties to be on guard.
"That could change," Dr. Ballard said. "We're a few days out from New Years and things could change very rapidly, so we have to be prepared for the potential for rapid change like we've seen elsewhere."
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