Florida COVID Patients Waiting Inside Ambulances for Admission as Hospitals Fill Up

COVID-19 cases are again packing hospitals, causing some Florida patients to have to wait in ambulances outside.

Patients in St. Petersburg are waiting up to an hour in ambulances parked right outside of the hospital, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The admission process for COVID-19 patients typically takes around 15 minutes, according to Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.

Because the ambulances have to wait for available hospital beds, they cannot go out on other emergencies until the patient is admitted.

"They're not available to take another call, which forces the fire department on scene at an accident or something to take that transport," Burton told the Sentinel. "That's caused quite a backlog for the system."

Heart attacks, strokes and other severe medical emergencies are still prioritized at these hospitals, despite the backlog, Burton added.

A new surge of coronavirus cases in the state has overwhelmed hospitals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported over 157,000 cases in the last seven days in the state—the highest level in the country.

The Florida Hospital Association reported 13,614 COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state Monday, setting a Florida record for daily hospitalizations. The previous peak came in late July 2020 with just over 10,000 patients hospitalized.

ℹ Florida COVID-19 Update for August 9, 2021

🔴 Total Confirmed Hospitalizations: 13,614 pic.twitter.com/lzC2azd3c3

— Florida Hospital Association (@FLHospitalAssn) August 9, 2021

Florida is also the worst state in the nation for COVID-19 deaths. Data from the CDC shows 791 new deaths in the last seven days, nearly 500 more weekly deaths than the runner-up, Louisiana. Over 100 of the deaths were reported Monday.

The overwhelming surge is causing staff shortages in Florida hospitals. The Florida Hospital Association released a poll reporting that 60 percent of hospitals in the state expect to be understaffed this week, with 23 percent of hospitals planning to expand COVID-19 patient areas to accommodate the influx.

Officials confirmed that a majority of the hospitalized patients are unvaccinated, the Sentinel reported. The Florida Health Department reported that 63 percent of the state was vaccinated as of Thursday.

The surge has forced some hospitals to suspend elective surgeries again, including Memorial Healthcare System hospitals in South Florida.

"We are seeing a surge like we've not seen before in terms of the patients coming," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Marc Napp said Wednesday at a news conference.

"This is the highest number of patients Memorial has ever seen. It's the sheer number coming in at the same time. There are only so many beds, so many doctors, only so many nurses," Napp added.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has opposed following CDC guidelines. He issued an executive order in July to ban mask mandates in schools. DeSantis also ordered the state health department to cease reporting on daily COVID-19 numbers, so the state instead puts out a weekly report.

Florida Ambulance
COVID-19 patients in ambulances await admission to Florida hospitals as cases surge. Above, medics prepare to transfer a patient from an ambulance outside of Emergency at Coral Gables Hospital in Coral Gables, Florida, on July 30, 2020. Chandan Khanna/AFP