'Unacceptable' Ebola Hotline Wait Times Prompt Extra Help

PHOTO: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have a conference call on EbolaDavid Goldman/AP Photo
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have a conference call on Ebola with CDC team members deployed in West Africa from the agency's Emergency Operations Center, Aug. 5, 2014, in Atlanta.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week, claiming that people calling its Ebola hotline had to wait as long as 108 minutes for someone to pick up the phone.

PHOTO: An Ebola virus is shown in this undated file image by the CDC.CDC/AP Photo
An Ebola virus is shown in this undated file image by the CDC.

“A properly staffed Ebola hotline is needed. When a constituent called the CDC hotline today the wait was 108 mins. That's unacceptable,” Portman tweeted Wednesday.

The CDC added 20 more operators to answer phones that it has been encouraging the public with questions and concerns to call. Today ABC News placed a few test calls to the number -- (1-800-CDC-INFO) -- and here are the results:

8:30 a.m. -- No wait time.

9:45 a.m. -- Estimated wait time was 28 minutes, but an operator picked up after eight minutes. But our call was answered after selecting the option for passengers on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas. That was the flight Dallas nurse Amber Vinson boarded with an elevated temperature before learning that she had contracted Ebola.

11 a.m. – Estimated wait time was “greater than 20 minutes,” but an operator picked up after five minutes.

12:30 p.m. – Estimated wait time was “greater than 20 minutes,” but an operator picked up after five minutes.

A spokeswoman in Sen. Lamar Alexander, a ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, said the CDC has added additional staff members to field the growing number of incoming calls. “Senator Alexander is concerned that Americans be able to reach CDC staff with Ebola questions and his staff reached out to CDC about reports of long wait times on the Ebola hotline,” the spokeswoman said.

“CDC told us that callers are being warned that wait times are long, but they may get through much sooner. The agency said it has added 20 more operators today and it is working to resolve any issues quickly,” she said.

Other news reports Tuesday suggested much longer wait times. CNN reported a 390 minute hold period and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reported 236 minute wait times.

An aide in Portman’s office told News the senator's office was also inundated with calls. The office received about 105 calls and 250 letters from constituents with Ebola-related questions in their DC office Wednesday, and an additional 60 calls were placed to the senator’s office in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Our staff talked to the CDC specifically about the wait time issue and the need for an additional hotline,” a Portman aide told ABC News. “They have said that they believe the call volume will die down a bit after the first day and that a central hotline for the CDC that directs individuals to an Ebola line is the best way to deal with the massive amount of calls.”

The CDC did not immediately have a comment.