Patients call it a healthcare crisis. Hospital leaders call it a medical mystery, very long wait times at Sunrise Hospital's emergency room.
Families are frustrated and say care is being compromised.
For the past three months we've been getting emails and phone calls from patients who say things are going from bad to worse at the Sunrise Emergency Room.
"I never thought that this would happen at a hospital," says a man we will call James. He called 911 because his mother had chest pains last week. He didn't want to show his face because his mother needs follow up care and they fear retaliation by staff.
Even though James's mom was rushed to the emergency room by ambulance, she was sent to the waiting room.
"They told her that they needed that bed back. So she came to sit out there with us in the waiting area." says James.
About 2 hours later she was seen by a doctor but not for much more than 10 minutes. That's when James says things got worse.
"We sat in the waiting room for over 15 hours with people bleeding on the walls. urinating on the floor. And staff was not updating us on what was going on."
They waited more than 15 hours and the doctor who looked at his mother for a few minutes.
"We never saw him again. He never followed up with her."
James's mom isn't the only patient we've heard from. Emails and calls have been hitting our newsroom for the last three months.
A disabled Navy veteran with a kidney infection was transferred from the VA to Sunrise only to wait more than 10 hours in the ER lobby.
An 85-year-old man who'd had a stroke was left sitting in a hospital gown with an IV in his arm for three hours.
We also heard from a woman who'd suffered two mini strokes and was kept waiting for 17 hours.
Sunrise provided this statement:
ED (Emergency Department) capacity is an issue across the valley. Sunrise Hospital is experiencing unprecedented patient volume both in the ED, through our trauma service and in the hospital itself. We are apologizing to our patients and their family members who are dealing with an extremely crowded ED and explaining to them when they arrive to our triage area that the wait may be very long.
Despite the strain on our emergency care resources, in order to serve the community, we have not closed our doors to emergency responders or to other hospitals sending us their patients who require a higher level of care. So anyone coming here by ambulance or on their own is seen by a medical provider as soon as possible to rule out a medical emergency.
When both the hospital and the ED are this busy, it means there may even be a wait time in the ED before a patient is transported upstairs to a hospital bed. The fact that we are keeping patients longer does not mean that they aren’t receiving treatment, testing or being observed while they wait for a bed.
All Hospital treatment times vary based on the severity of a patient’s illness, so while a 'fast track' or “low acuity” visit might take less than an hour, someone else’s treatment may take much longer.
UMC tells us their ER is busier than usual, too. They say hospital beds have remained full which makes it a challenge to move patients out of the emergency department to an inpatient bed as quickly as they would like to.
The Southern Nevada Health District says higher ER wait times are not unusual this time of year.