Family says they spent 50 hours waiting for care at Memphis hospital; health officials say some wait even longer

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A family was admitted to a Memphis hospital room Monday afternoon after they say they waited there 50 hours — more than two days — for treatment.

Hospitals have been warning that long wait times could happen, saying they simply don’t have the staff to sustain added patient load right now. The family said they want others to be aware if they make a trip to the ER.

Liza Lofton talked to us on the phone about her sister, waiting in the emergency room at Methodist South in Whitehaven. Lofton and other relatives have altered shifts while waiting with their sister, who asked to remain anonymous. 

She said coming to the ER wasn’t her sister’s first choice for care.

“She’s dealing with an infection in her legs and she can’t go to quick care or anything like that, because they’re referring her straight to the ER,” Lofton said.

She arrived at the emergency room Saturday around 12:30 in the afternoon. 

While she waited to see a doctor, staff checked her vitals every few hours, did blood work and ordered CAT scans. 

“They did wrap her legs because they were leaking. They had fluid coming from them,” Lofton said.

She said part of the problem has for her 66-year-old sister has been the unknown.

“She is a little down in her spirits, you know, because she’s not sure what the outcome was going to be. So we’re just kind of waiting,” Lofton said.

Recently, emergency department medical directors of area hospitals sent a letter to local mayors about what they called a current crisis in the medical system. They warned of long wait times and the possibility of having to triage patients.

Shelby County’s Health Department Director saying she too has received reports of long ER wait times.

“We have our emergency department directors telling people, ‘Listen, waits in the emergency department are 36 to 48 hours. I’ve heard reports as high as 60 hours. That’s almost three days waiting to just be seen,” Dr. Michelle Taylor, director of the Shelby County Health Department, said at a task force briefing on Aug. 19.

“I’m seeing it firsthand, it’s unfortunate so my thing is take every safeguard to protect your health and to prevent yourself from having to come to the ER because if you come, nine times out of 10 you better be prepared to wait and at this point it’s not waiting for hours but days.”

A spokesperson with Methodist said Monday afternoon they can’t talk about particular cases, but acknowledged long ER wait times across the country.

They said patients are regularly triaged but they’re not to the point of rationing care. They also said they recognize it is difficult for patients that are waiting and they are committed to providing quality care.

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