HCA's Mission Hospital patients face longer wait times from ambulance to ER

Some patients at HCA Healthcare's Mission Hospital in Asheville, N.C., are experiencing longer wait times between ambulance pickup and emergency room admission, the Citizen Times reported July 25.

Most patients wait only about 15 to 20 minutes, the industry standard, once they arrive at the hospital, but more patients are experiencing longer "wall times" — the time when patients and paramedics wait in a hallway outside the emergency department for staff to triage and admit the patient. 

In 2018, 4.4 percent of wall times exceeded 20 minutes in Buncombe County, but in the second quarter of 2023, 24 percent of wall times exceeded 20 minutes and 104 patients waited for more than an hour.

Longer wall times lead to fewer ambulances being available to receive calls.

"It's a flow issue, it's a staffing issue. Those are two of the biggest parts that contribute to those delays when they occur," Buncombe County EMS Medical Director Stace Horine, MD, who has worked in the Mission Health system for more than 30 years as a physician, told the Times.

Nancy Lindell, a hospital spokesperson, told the Times that "while Mission Hospital's ER is fully staffed, the demand is sometimes greater than our capacity," and "patients are triaged in the appropriate manner. If a patient arrives who is less critical than the next, they may have to wait."

Experts said the issue is ongoing nationwide and is due in part to increased emergency department use.

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