Some patients seeking emergency treatment are having to wait in the ambulances that brought them to Southeast Georgia Health System’s hospital in Brunswick because of the recent crush of coronavirus patients, a hospital official said.

“If we don’t have a bed available in the ER, the EMT stays with them until we have a bed,’’ said Christy Jordan, chief operating officer of the health system. “If something goes wrong, we’re right there.”

The ER staff is trying to get the patients out of the ambulances as quickly as possible so the EMTs can respond to other emergency calls, she said.

If someone arrives with a critical injury or illness, they are taken into the ER immediately. Others with something like an unexplained stomach ache may have to wait in an ambulance as the sicker patients are treated.

“Last night was particularly bad. We had a stroke and a trauma the same time as a traffic accident,’’ she said.

The stroke victim went first followed by the person with the fracture, she said.

The holds in ambulances with trained personnel attending have run 30 minutes to an hour and are preferable to diversions to other hospitals, possibly in Jacksonville or Savannah, Jordan said.

“Where we’re located, we don’t feel that’s the right thing to do,’’ she said of the diversions.

“We’re trying to take care of our folks here, and we don’t want to burden them. They’re trying to do the same for us,’’ she said of hospitals that would take the system’s diverted patients.

Patients with COVID-19 are taking up a lot of the available beds.

“We’re at 82,’’ she said of coronavirus patients. “That’s as high as we’ve ever been.”

Of the 82, 72 were in Brunswick and 10 in St. Marys, she said.

The Brunswick hospital is getting patients from other area hospitals that are in diversion and also from St. Marys. As of 4 p.m., the 40-bed St. Marys hospital had 39 inpatients, Jordan said.

Satilla Health System in Waycross and Wayne Memorial in Jesup are both in diversion and are sending ambulances to Brunswick, she said.

Some facilities go in and out of diversion in a matter of hours, but Waycross has been in diversion for two days.

Come Wednesday, however, the Brusnswick hospital will have 32 more beds that were brought on line hurriedly as local coronavirus numbers began increasing.

The hospital is undergoing an extensive renovation and construction resources were shifted to get the rooms ready well ahead of schedule, Jordan said.

“Once it began picking up, we concentrated on a 32-bed unit,’’ and delayed work on some facilities that could wait, she said.

“We’ll be ready to receive patients on Wednesday,’’ Jordan said.

But first, the hospital has to find enough staff to operate it, she said.

As of Sunday, the hospital already had “35 agency folks, crisis staff,’’ hired to provide care to meet the increased needs, she said.

Jordan said thus far no one has a sure explanation for the recent surge in cases and resulting deaths in Glynn County, but it’s clear some people aren’t following the basic guidelines to prevent spread. If everyone does four simple things, “we can get control,’’ she said.

“Wear a mask. Stay home if you’re sick. Don’t get in large groups. Wash your hands.’’

Anyone who spends 15 minutes within six feet of someone with COVID-19 is presumed to be exposed, she said.

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