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Western Pennsylvania hospitals reporting high numbers of COVID-19 patients, rising number of deaths

PITTSBURGH — “I was at work and experienced heart palpitations, and my blood pressure went real high,” Christopher Selley told Channel 11.

He was at work and took an ambulance to Heritage Valley Beaver, where he says he never got a room.

“They did a chest X-ray, EKG, and a CAT scan of my head. They did those tests, then placed me back into the wheelchair in the waiting room,” Selley said.

He told Channel 11 he sat in the waiting room, in a wheelchair, from 4 a.m. until noon. Other patients were there too waiting to receive care.

“There were people laying all over the waiting room and sleeping. (Staff) was coming around handing out blankets just so they could sleep,” he added.

Heritage Valley’s Medical Director for Emergency Services says they have 90 COVID-19 patients at their three hospitals combined, which is close to last year’s peak.

With staffing shortages, wait times could be up to four hours.

They aren’t the only hospital system experiencing these issues. Butler Memorial has the highest number of COVID-19 patients they’ve had since the pandemic started. Right now, they have 70 inpatients, and wait times are up to 6 hours. A dozen COVID-19 patients have died at BMS since Friday, officials said.

“We had to cancel every day of elective surgeries last week, except Friday, because we just didn’t have any room. Patients are holding in the emergency department, waiting for beds, so that slows down the emergency department as well,” Butler Health System’s Chief Nursing Officer Karen Allen said.

A UPMC spokesperson told us they also have longer wait times and have seen a steady increase in COVID-19 cases, but they aren’t near capacity.

“Currently we have the highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients that we’ve seen since this time last year,” UPMC physician Dr. Erin McCreary said.

It’s a common issue across our region that’s proving to be frustrating for staff and patients.

“I feel bad for the staff. I don’t think it’s the staff’s fault, but I think there has to be a better way to take care of it,” Selley told Channel 11.

We also checked in with Allegheny Health Network, who said their hospitals are seeing an increase in COVID-19, including 19 patients, some of which need ICU care.