Seminole Fire Rescue asks residents to limit calling 911 due to busy hospitals

The Seminole County fire chief is asking the public to only call 911 if they have an actual emergency because Central Florida hospitals are busy which has made wait times high.

The Seminole County fire chief says that there have been long wait times at hospitals which have been utilizing most of the department's emergency services.

"We’ve experienced hospital wait times in the past but what we’re seeing is historic levels of it right now," said Seminole County Fire Chief Otto Drozd. "What’s happening now is that because the hospitals are inundated, our units taking patients in are having to wait an excess of 45 min, an hour, two hours when the normal wait time is 20 minutes."

Firefighter and Paramedic Marisol Esquilin says she spent hours with patients this weekend waiting to get into the hospital. 

She says paramedics need to wait with the people who call an ambulance to get a room before they can move on to their next call.

"As recently as Saturday, I waited two hours and 45 minutes to offload someone at the hospital," Esquilin said. "You want to serve your citizens and get there as fast as you can and you’re feeling like, 'Oh my God, I don’t think I can get there and help them as fast as I should,' but I cannot control that."

According to Seminole County Emergency Management in August, there have been 309 hospitalizations in the county, compared to 86 in July. And, there have been 75 people recovering from the ICU this month in Seminole County hospitals compared to 26 in July.

Numbers also show that Seminole County Emergency Management has dispatched nearly 20% more units compared to this time last year.

This is why Chief Drozd is asking people to try to preserve ambulances for those who need them, and if you have minor symptoms of COVID-19 or an injury with no deformities or loss of circulation, go to urgent care instead.

"It's going to take us longer to get to those emergencies and where that counts is in those critical cardiac arrests, those fire incidents, those auto accidents with entrapment that really seconds and minutes count," Chief Drozd said.