ER closure causes longer transport times for ambulances in West Memphis

ER closure causes longer transport times for ambulances in West Memphis
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Crittenden Ambulance Service Corporation is busy transporting a number of patients across the river following the closing of Crittenden Regional Hospital's emergency room.

Yellow tape blocks the ER's driveway, door and entrance. A sign was posted on the glass directing patients to call 911 for emergencies. The ER is now officially closed.

When the hospital closed its emergency room with very little notice, it forced ambulance services to reroute to Memphis. But that takes time, too.

Turn around time is usually 15 to 20 minutes, but Crittenden Ambulance Service Corporation says it took up to two hours to go Memphis hospitals on Wednesday night.

If you've tried to cross the Arkansas bridge recently you know it takes time. Construction and traffic make it a longer trip than usual.

"With the hospital closing over here. We've got a lot of disabled people over here and they've got to have a doctor and might not make it over there to Memphis," said Roman Booker.

Just down the street from the hospital, neighbors are concerned about how long it could take to get to Memphis.

"How can you make it over there with the bridges clogging up?" he asked.

Thomas Bush drove across the bridge Thursday and says it took him awhile to get across.

"Traffic is just backed up on the highway over there now," Bush said.

WMC Action News 5's Lauren Squires tested the route from Roman Booker's house to Regional Medical Center.  It took about 20 minutes, passing through construction, traffic and stopping at traffic lights.

Now, many people are wondering if there is a better solution.

"Where do we go from here, how to we make it from here," said Brooks.

All major hospitals in Memphis have seen an increase in their number of emergency room patients since the Crittenden Regional Hospital ER closure. But because the patients are going to several different hospitals, it is not making the wait times in the Memphis hospitals any longer than usual.

Most wait times in Memphis, though, are longer than they were at Crittenden Regional Hospital; some are as long as four hours.

Crittenden County Judge Woody Wheeless held a news conference on Thursday to discuss the future of the hospital and reassure patients that they will still have access to their doctors.  He did admit that there are still many more questions than answers at this point.

"I want to let the public know that these doctors are committed to staying in this community," Wheeless said, adding that they are looking at all options to make sure residents have a hospital in the future. 

Wheeless also thanked all of the EMS personnel who have stepped up since the emergency room closure, helping to transport patients to and from Memphis. 

At this point there are no potential buyers for Crittenden Regional Hospital, in large part due to the debt the hospital is in. 

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