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Mercer Co. health officials hold emergency meeting to address ER bed shortage

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PRINCETON, W.Va. (WVVA)- An "urgent strain," those are the two words Mercer County officials used to describe the number of available Emergency Room beds.

Chief Executive Officer Karen Bowling with Princeton Community Hospital says their staff is doing the best they can under the circumstances they are faced with.

"You know Princeton Community Hospital, clearly we've been challenged with the COVID, and if you look at our infection rate per capita, West Virginia is the worst in the country," she said.

Their goal for Monday's emergency news briefing -- to bring awareness to the crisis plaguing hospitals on the local level, as well as get a hold of the crisis, before it gets worst.

"In many cases our intensive care units across the state of West Virginia patients continue to come in to our emergency roo, and we have our partners to bring them," said Bowling.

Partners like both the Princeton and Bluefield rescue squads.

Chief Executive Officer Stacey Hicks with the Princeton Rescue Squad the issue are not the amount of ambulances in circulation.

"One of the things that we are struggling with right now is trying to get the patients off-loaded, getting them into the ER," he said.

Some ambulances are left to wait outside hospitals because emergency room beds are just not available which has caused emergency medical technicians to triage patients while they wait for a bed to free-up.

Health officials say they need the publics help.

"Get vaccinated, and if you can't get vaccinated because of medical reasons, wear a mask because at least this is going to protect the people around you."

They also advise the public to social distance and frequently wash their hands.

Those who think they've been exposed to COVID-19 should contact their primary care provider - a COVID-19 test should not be the only reason for an ER visit.

"We don't want anyone to think they should go without care," said Bowling. "We want to make sure we care about this community, that is first and foremost."

It was learned at that press briefing -- between the Princeton and Bluefield rescue squads -- five staff members have tested for COVID-19 and are now in quarantine.

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Annick Joseph

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