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PROVIDENCE — Part of the emergency department at Rhode Island Hospital, the state’s largest hospital, was forced to close Thursday due to a nursing shortage.

The emergency center at Rhode Island Hospital is the only Level I trauma center in southeastern New England, where the department’s frontline workers see some of the area’s most critically injured and severely ill people.

The C-pod, which is the section of the emergency department that closed, is a fluid unit with various opening and closing times, according to executives. It’s been used for different patient types, including an inpatient holding unit, a unit for moderately acute patients, and a COVID-19 isolation unit, said Lifespan spokeswoman Kathleen Hart.

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“The recent staffing shortages from leaves of absences, daily call-outs, and resignations for travel nurse opportunities make it difficult to staff the area consistently,” said Hart in a statement.

The C-pod could reopen based on staffing, according to Hart. She said these changes ensure that workers can provide care in a safe environment and so that the hospital has the appropriate resources to treat the sickest patients that need emergency care.

A nurse at the ER told the Globe that the average wait time at the ER Thursday was about “four to five hours. Sometimes even longer.”

“We ask that patients who do not require emergent care contact their primary care physician or seek care at an urgent care facility,” said Hart.

Globe staff member Brian Amaral contributed to this report.



Alexa Gagosz can be reached at alexa.gagosz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz.