Published: Feb 19, 2014 8:39 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- With season comes more visitors to Southwest Florida, and that means longer waits at local emergency rooms.

Julia Liebscher, ER Director at Gulf Coast Medical Center, says, "we've had higher numbers this season, we got hit pretty hard with the flu in December. We're seeing about 5% more patients than we did last year. It seems like we have a little more walk-in traffic, our ambulance traffic has stayed about the same."

She adds, "we want to get patients out of the beds upstairs so we can get the patients admitted through the Emergency Department up to their beds."


She says it becomes a challenge for Lee Memorial Health System leaders as the ERs fill up and more patients continue to arrive. But they have a plan to redirect ambulances to the other ERs if one reaches its limit.

Some hospitals are also adding more beds and new units to meet the need. "We also opened up a cardiac decision unit two weeks ago so we are reducing the length of stay for those low level cardiac patients from 48 hours to about 18 hour stays."

She says patients can sometimes wait for 3-4 hours in the ER waiting room during the busiest days of season, compared to 30 minutes to an hour on a regular day off season. "Unless it is a true medical emergency, go to your family physician or use the Lee Convenient Care," she adds.

One volunteer group is trying to make the patient's stay as compfortable as possible. The Gulf Coast Auxiliary raised more than $50,000 to donate TVs for every room in the post anesthia unit, to entertain patients while they wait for a bed.