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Patients Seeking Tests, COVID Relief Stressing SF Healthcare System

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- San Francisco General Hospital continues to see a lot of traffic, but it's not all sick patients. Many of the people showing up are those who just can't find a test anywhere else.

"My wife needs to get a test because she's coughing and we think she has COVID," said Arthur Penta, dropping his wife off at the hospital to wait for a test.

It was a non-stop flow of people at SF General Monday, many of them getting desperate as other testing sites got overwhelmed or shut down.

"Here, the line was around the block," said Jaqueline Hernandez. "People are waiting. Some people have been there for over an hour just waiting. If you don't have an appointment you're not making it in."

But the testing crowds are just one challenge.

"Please don't call 911 to ask for a COVID test or because you have a cold or minor flu symptoms," San Francisco Fire Department Chief Jeanine Nicholson pleaded on Saturday.

Over the weekend, the city warned of stress on its 911 system. Since then, call volume has fallen back toward normal.

"And just like the 911 system, not just Zuckerberg San Francisco General but every emergency department every hospital in the city is impacted by the current omicron surge," said Dr. Susan Erlich, the hospital's Chief Executive Officer. "Not just because of the patients were taking care of who have COVID but also because many of our staff are out either sick with COVID themselves or because they are quarantining because we've had a high-risk encounter."

The hospital is also pushing its testing capacity.

"The wait for my wife today, probably about an hour and a half, two hours," Penta guessed.

At one point, the staff decided the line was long enough for the day, and those without appointments were turned away.

"That's just what happened to me today," Hernandez said. "I thought maybe it won't be too bad. They said 'No, you're probably not gonna make it because there's a cut-off time at 4 p.m."

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