Hospital Emergency Rooms Clogged with Mentally Ill Patients - 8 News NOW

Hospital Emergency Rooms Clogged with Mentally Ill Patients

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AMR systems shows hospital in internal crisis mode causing patients to be diverted to another hospital. AMR systems shows hospital in internal crisis mode causing patients to be diverted to another hospital.

LAS VEGAS -- Ambulances are being turned away at some Las Vegas valley hospitals due to overcrowding. At issue is the high number of mentally ill patients seeking treatment in hospital emergency rooms because they have no where else to go.

Doctors say they are forced to turn people away with serious medical issues. As of late Thursday afternoon, St. Rose Siena and de Lima hospitals were turning away ambulances because they're filled to capacity. Emergency response officials say there were 238 mentally ill people seeking help in emergency rooms. The problem is so severe, hospitals are going into crisis mode.

In an emergency medical situation, chances are a person's phone call would be routed to American Medical Response ambulance service. General Manager Scott White says every week hospitals across the valley are going into "internal disaster mode" and can't accept new patients. 

"It could be a domino effect. If the next closest hospital is then closed for internal disaster, then we're going to the third closest hospital," he said.

Mentally ill patients are often brought to emergency rooms by police. In 2013, police transported 6,700 mentally ill people to hospitals. The patients often end up staying as long as 72 hours. This can force a hospital to shut down its emergency room to incoming patients.

"The psychiatric stuff is a real concern to everyone," White said.

UMC's Dr. Dale Carrison says the problem is only getting worse after the closure of the Rawson-Neal Psychiatric outpatient clinic.

"This is a problem that's been going on for years," Carrison said. "It keeps increasing and those of us involved, we keep looking at that increase and at some point, it's going to break."

He says clogged emergency room's could one day lead to serious issues.

"If we had a major flu episode, we'd be in a complete mess because somebody is not going to get taken," Carrison said.

For people waiting outside the emergency room, this is not welcome news.

"What if something is really wrong, like what if you're going to die?"

During an emergency, if your hospital is on internal disaster protocol, you will continue to be re-routed to the next closest hospital until one can accept you.

This isn't the first time this has happened. In 2004, former Governor Kenny Guinn declared a State of Emergency when mentally ill patients were overrunning emergency rooms. Today, doctors say the numbers are even higher.

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