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'This is the highest that I've ever seen': Central Ohio hospitals urge patients to visit primary care doctors before ER

Four central Ohio hospitals say they are at “critical capacity.” Thursday morning, just 10 of Franklin County’s 560 ICU beds were open.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Four area hospitals are pleading with neighbors for help. Hospital officials say, as of Thursday morning, there are less than 2% of ICU beds available. That number is even lower for surgical beds. 

“We're always full. Beds are filled as soon as we discharge someone and that bed is the turnaround is probably a couple hours,” said Wengy Arter, an ICU nurse at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

Arter estimates about five of the hospital's 48 ICU beds were filled by COVID patients when summer first began. Now, she says that number is 22.

A letter addressed to community members and signed by the CEOs from Mount Carmel, OhioHealth, Nationwide Children's Hospital and Wexner Medical Center asks anyone who needs care to consult their primary care provider first.

Credit: 10TV/WBNS

“Instead of utilizing the emergency department as that first line of defense, work with your primary care provider. Often times your primary care provider utilizes telehealth so it's very convenient,” said Jeff Klingler, president and CEO of Central Ohio Hospital Council.

Out of the 2,300 medical-surgical beds in Franklin County, only 11 were open as of Thursday morning. Of the 560 ICU beds in the county, just 10 were open.

“This is the highest that I've ever seen in my 13 years of working with the local hospitals. I've never seen capacity this tight throughout the pandemic and beyond,” said Klingler. 

State health officials have asked that people being treated for routine, minor health conditions try to avoid the emergency room in an effort to make space. Instead, Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff suggests calling your primary care provider first, and only seeking emergency help if you feel it is necessary. 

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