Shortage of workers at step-down facilities lead to UVM ER crisis

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 5:44 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - The emergency department at the UVM Medical Center is on the brink of being overwhelmed, with patients sometimes waiting hours and people who need to be moved out of the ER with no place to go.

Since Friday, The hospital has asked people with non-emergencies medical issues to seek care elsewhere. Upwards of 100 patients swamped the ER late last week in a facility that has only 53 beds.

“We are really doing everything in our power to make sure that we can see everybody who urgently needs us. I want to make sure people know that we can see you if you have an emergency problem -- we will make space for you no matter what. But for those minor things where you’re sure it’s minor, if there are other things you can do, that would be helpful for your friends and neighbors who are having emergencies tonight,” said UVMMC president Dr. Stephen Leffler.

It all stems from a state and nationwide staffing crisis which is leaving patients with mental health and long-term care needs in the emergency department instead of in specialized care. “They can’t go home but they don’t have that place to go after hospitalization,” said Devon Green with the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Health Systems.

Each day at UVMMC, 25% of ER beds are being used by people with mental health needs waiting for inpatient services elsewhere. Right now, there are about 75 people who need to be in nursing homes but can’t go because there’s not enough staffing at long-term care facilities. “All areas of the health care workforce -- we are not seeing enough workers. And we have enough beds in Vermont and in our skilled nursing facilities but we do not have enough workers to staff them and we don’t have the ability to again take those complex patients who have special needs,” Green said.

UVMMC is stressing that people who think they might have an emergency situation such as a suspected heart attack, stroke, or loss of vision to head to the ER.

Related Story:

UVM Medical Center ER swamped with patients