By: KDKA-TV’s Shelley Bortz

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The number of patients seeking care in Westmoreland County in recent weeks is rising, fueled in part by the spread of COVID-19.

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The spike has created overcrowding in emergency rooms, as well as increased wait times.

The director of Mutual Aid Ambulance told KDKA-TV that because of the lack of emergency-room beds, his team sometimes has to wait an hour or longer to transfer patients from the ambulance to a bed in the ER.

In an email sent to police and fire chiefs across the county, Dr. William Jenkins, with Excela Health, warned the departments that the COVID-19 numbers are higher than ever.

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Excela is operating at greater than 100-percent capacity, with a lack of inpatient and intensive care beds, causing the overcrowding and excessive wait times in the ER.

KDKA-TV was told admitted patients have been waiting in the ER for inpatient beds to open up, forcing some of them to be treated in the hallways.

The issue has spilled over into the ambulance services in the area, too.

Mutual Aid Ambulance officials said that not only have their wait times increased, but they’ve had to reroute patients on the way to a hospital.

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“What is happening is hospitals all across our region are saying. ‘We’re at capacity, we’re on treatment delay, we’re on diversion,’ and that creates a particular challenge for us,” Mutual Aid Ambulance spokesman Lorenzo Garino said. “Folks who live in a neighborhood, live in a community want to go to that community hospital and sometimes we have to explain to them that may not be the best option.”