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26 heroin overdoses in 5 hours extend wait times at local West Virginia hospitals

On Monday, Emergency Medical Services and law enforcement in Cabell County, W.Va., responded to 26 heroin overdoses in the span of five hours. The spike in overdoses taxed EMS resources and extended wait times at local hospitals, according to WSAZ 3.

Limited ambulances forced EMS to triage responses, prioritizing the most severe calls. There were no deaths during the spike, but many patients required multiple doses of the anti-overdose drug Narcan.

"It's getting harder and harder to bring these overdoses back to consciousness," Cabell County EMS Supervisor Chad Ward told WSAZ 3. "We were fortunate we did not lose anybody yesterday."

Waiting rooms at local hospitals were also overwhelmed. Clay Young, MD, a staff physician at Cabell Huntington Hospital where eight of the overdose patients were treated, described the day as "insanely busy."

"I can understand somebody being upset at having to wait, nobody likes to wait," said Dr. Young. "We triage the sickest first so if you're not breathing from an overdose, then you're going to get priority treatment."

St. Mary's Medical Center in Huntington treated 12 of the 26 overdose patients in a span of four hours on Monday.

Paul Lageman, director of Emergency and Trauma Services at St. Mary's, told WSAZ 3, "The frustration that comes with length of stay is certainly a reality. The goal is to make sure every patient, their needs are met and in as timely fashion as we can...and we met that very well yesterday in my opinion."

In August 2015, there were a total of 39 overdose patients in Cabell County for the entire month.

More articles on patient flow: 
How hospitals are working with Uber to get patients to appointments 
Nurse-driven protocols shorten ED stays, study finds 
268 hospitalized during Lollapalooza

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