PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Hospital emergency room wait times have been increasing rapidly, and now it appears the wait time for an ambulance to arrive is also turning into a crisis.

It doesn’t seem to be strictly due to the increase in 9-1-1 calls due to respiratory illnesses either.

Multnomah County said they had more than 400 calls in one day for ambulances this week, close to the number of calls they received during the record-breaking heat wave in June 2021.

“Unlike the heat wave, we don’t think this is going to be over anytime soon,” said Multnomah County health officer Dr. Jennifer Vines. “Most people are expecting at least another month.”

Officials said it is not just more people calling for ambulances that are causing the delay in getting one, it’s a combination of factors that are creating longer wait times. For one, there is a shortage of EMTs and paramedics. Additionally, hospital ERs and other floors are already filled with patients, forcing ambulances to head to other hospitals that are further away. Lastly, paramedics often must wait to unload a patient once they arrive. Continuing care in the ambulance takes additional time.

“We would arrive at a hospital and you may have five to ten minutes you’d have to wait to give a report,” said Steve Boughey, chief of emergency medical services at TVF&R. “That now is getting in the area of 45 minutes, so literally the ambulances are having to wait to turn the patients over to the hospital. Now you combine post-COVID and what’s going on with RSV currently and we have a really perfect storm.”

According to officials, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue ambulances are activated as a backup when private ambulances like Metro are already at capacity. TVF&R said that used happen about 30 times a year, but now they are taking people to the hospital several times a day.