By Adrienne Moore

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — First responders at the California State Capitol on Wednesday blasted hours-long wait times to transfer patients to emergency rooms.

Emergency health workers voiced their growing frustration during a hearing, saying the wait times are bad for patients and keep them from other calls. Some agencies reported waiting up to eight hours to transfer patients to emergency rooms.

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Many reported waiting several hours because no one is available to receive new patients — a problem made worse as the COVID-19 Omicron variant stretches hospitals thin.

“It’s only a matter of time before a community member will die simply because they could not get to the hospital,” Chino Valley Fire District Chief David Williams said during the hearing.

Emergency health workers say the problem has been decades in the making, exacerbated now by staffing shortages and high demand due to the pandemic. Sacramento Fire Department Assistant Chief Eric Saylors used graphics to highlight the problem.

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“Patient transfers should take no longer than 20 minutes, and last year, we were held on the wall for over two hours more than 700 times,” Saylors said during the hearing.

The Sacramento Fire Department said response times in the downtown corridor are inching toward 12 minutes. They used a recent call as an example.

“The ambulance that actually responded to this call was not actually a Sacramento city ambulance,” Saylors said. ” It was a [Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District] ambulance eight miles away and three cities over.”

Some of the solutions suggested include updating old Emergency Medical Services rules and fining hospitals if an ambulance waits longer than 20 minutes. Another suggested solution is to ask hospitals to hire additional staff to care for patients once they are dropped off.

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Some EMS workers call this the most significant medical crisis in the state.

Adrienne Moore