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'This is a public safety issue' | Woes over ambulance offloading delays head to California Assembly

Ambulances can wait for hours to offload patients at Sacramento area hospitals. Local first responders say it's a problem a decade in the making.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Amid reports of ambulances waiting for as long as eight hours for their patients to get a hospital bed, the California State Assembly Committee on Emergency Management is expected to hear from the Sacramento Fire Department, private ambulance companies and other Emergency Medical Service (EMS) officials from around the state.

It comes as hospitals are seeing another surge of COVID patients this month, but Sacramento first responders say the offloading delays are a crisis more than a decade in the making. 

"It's very frustrating to continue to see these issues" said Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District Captain Parker Wilbourn. "We presented this problem now a decade ago, and it seems as if the can has been kicked."

In a letter to the emergency management committee Chairperson Assembly Member Freddie Rodriguez, Sac Metro Fire Chief Todd Harms said, "...hospitals and local and state EMS officials have been aware of the (Ambulance Patient Offload Time) challenge for a decade."

Harms also excerpts a 2013 report by the California Hospital Association and California EMS Authority: 

“Also in 2012, Sacramento Metro Fire Department accumulated 17,345 hours of delays in patient offload time at one hospital with an estimated system cost for this time of $2.6 million. When multiple ambulances are delayed, Sacramento Fire has to pull paramedic firefighters from other stations, meaning fire suppression units are unavailable to respond.”

"This is a public safety issue," Wilbourn said. "When we’ve got our ambulances sitting at hospitals, they’re not able to respond as quickly in the field."

The hearing starts at 9 a.m. at the State Capitol in room 437 on Wednesday. Anyone who wants to submit written testimony before the hearing can do so at https://www.aem.assembly.ca.gov. The hearing will be available online HERE, but people can also attend the meeting in person if they wear a mask at all times. 

To read the full letter from Sacramento Metro Fire District, view the PDF below. 

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Ambulances, patients waiting more than 8 hours for beds at Sacramento emergency departments