By CBSLA Staff

SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA) — As emergency rooms across San Bernardino County fill up with coronavirus patients, ambulances are being forced to line up in front of ERs and wait sometimes hours with stable patients inside.

To help address concerns, the county plans to send fewer ambulances out to calls, reserving them only for life-threatening emergencies, such as trouble breathing due to coronavirus and other ailments.

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“We want to do our best to decompress those facilities, allow them to care for the sick patients and to catch up so that the system itself can keep up with the influx of COVID and flu season,” said Eric Sherwin of San Bernardino County Fire

Instead, paramedics and a firetruck will respond to non-life-threatening calls countywide.

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“I think all of us in healthcare can think of various times where emergency departments in the healthcare department have been strained. I’m not aware of any time the system has been strained for such an extended period of time,” Sherwin said. “For every hour that ambulances are waiting, that ambulance is not available for other 911 calls in the system.”

San Bernardino County has fewer hospitals than L.A. County and Orange County, so some officials aren’t surprised they’ve had to come to this decision to address the influx of patients.

“The amount of calls have actually increased but our ability to transport patients to the hospital and leave them at the hospital has been impacted. The wait time at all of our area hospitals has become impacted,” said Bill Watson, the director of Care Ambulance. “We are blessed in L.A. and O.C. with more hospitals so we aren’t seeing it here but I think every EMS agency is doing their best to cope with this pandemic.”

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Officials want to stress to the community that this change does not prevent their access to medical care — it only changes it, prioritizing life-threatening cases over stable patients.