Spike in COVID cases forcing hospitals to divert patients due to lack of rooms

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — Some hospitals in our area are being forced to divert patients to different hospitals because they’re running out of room.

The diversion system was put in place so that emergency staff members who are very busy or have no more space can catch up for taking on more patients.

Hospital officials in Gaston County said the diversion is temporary. They told Channel 9 the move is happening more because of the spike in COVID-19 cases.

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Medical officials are asking people not to go to the Emergency Room first unless it is a medical emergency.

“It was heart-wrenching to see him suffer like that,” parent Tammy Byers said about her 19-year-old son, who had severe symptoms and later tested positive for COVID-19.

Byers and her son went to the ER at CaroMont Health in Gastonia, but the priority was for patients who were the sickest.

“It was stressful. We were there for four hours,” Byers said.

Her son eventually got pain medication and care at another hospital. He is currently in quarantine at home.

Hospital workers said cases like Byers’ are the reason why they are asking people to go to Urgent Care or their doctor first.

A CaroMont spokesperson said 10 hospitals throughout the Charlotte region have had to use the diversion system in the last few weeks, and COVID-19 greatly contributed to that.

In early July, there were as few as four COVID-19 patients at CaroMont. On Thursday, there were 106 patients.

Paramedics and hospitals are now using the system to track diversions at 29 hospitals, which shows when a hospital is on diversion.

Gaston County reporter Ken Lemon was with paramedics Thursday who were monitoring the diversion system. There was one patient in the system when Lemon started the interview. That number changed a couple of minutes later.

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“It’s been as many as eight,” said paramedic Micah Klesick. “Those hospitals are full almost every day these days.”

A chart with real-time updates helps paramedics plan ahead.

“Every diversion costs them time in the field,” Klesick said. “Now we are going to CMC Main. That turns an hour trip to 2½ hours sometimes.”

CaroMont and other hospitals said if you have a stroke or an urgent life-threatening condition, they will not turn you away. CaroMont posted a guide they said will help people looking to get help without swamping the ER.

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