Emergency Room Waits Now Average Six Hours

A new study has confirmed what most of us already know: we have a crisis in emergency rooms where sick individuals customarily have to wait for hours before being seen. We have seen the horrible consequences of these delays in past postings (here and here). Now, researchers from Press Ganey Associates, a group that works with health care organizations to improve clinical outcomes, finds that in 2009, patients admitted to hospitals waited on average six hours in emergency rooms. Nearly 400,000 patients waited 24 hours or more.

The Government Accountability Office has found that emergency room delays continue to increase. Indeed, many in the field appear to hope that citizens will simply come to accept such delays as the norm. Yet, many of us remember when you could go into an emergency room and receive care quickly.

I fail to understand why citizens are not in open revolt over the failure of Congress to deal directly with this problem. I also do not understand why hospitals are not required to see patients during a set period of time on average to retain their certification.

Source: CNN

Jonathan Turley

21 thoughts on “Emergency Room Waits Now Average Six Hours”

  1. PatricParamedic,

    “This is an ogre WE spawned. And now we flounder in its excesses. Once was the time when we sought out it’s advantages in hours of need. That time has passed. Via the dubious miracle of television, grotesque tentacles now reach right into the living room, poison frangible minds, convince the healthy they are doomed if they fail to follow.”

    Nicely spoken, well done! I found myself in a forum on the ABA site dealing with various problems the medical community faces and from the tone of the reports, doctors hate drug advertisements. Even in part for the reason you state. I got the impression that doctors, in the main, were not all that happy with medicine driven by insurance companies and TV ads.

    I also found out that insurance companies control the way medicine is practiced in almost every aspect and account for seemingly ridiculous medical decisions. It’s al about the bottom line.

  2. What on earth did we think was going to happen?

    We worship at the Church of Modern Medicine en masse. We bend, kneel & heed unintelligible Latin commands as we do Gregorian chant from the Scriptures.

    We unquestioningly follow the robed apostles because only they can decipher the Holy Word.

    The gods of medicine perform blood-spilling rites upon either real or kidnapped infirm, draped across sterile alters which rival any sacrificial lambs within any basilica on earth.

    Physician-priests don the holy vestments of the High Mass, while tended to by subservient nurse-nuns at their beck & call.

    The entire rapacious, flesh-gobbling machine has become a multi-tentacled, drink-from-the-chalice, swallow-the-pill Leviathan demanding obedience with the threat of excommunication and worse – lost souls.

    This is an ogre WE spawned. And now we flounder in its excesses. Once was the time when we sought out it’s advantages in hours of need. That time has passed. Via the dubious miracle of television, grotesque tentacles now reach right into the living room, poison frangible minds, convince the healthy they are doomed if they fail to follow.

    “Agnus dei, qui toles pecate mundi, dona nobis pacem.”

    And let us pray.

  3. Andrew:

    very interesting. There are many things that can be done to modify our current system.

    I would like to see low cost clinics at major hospitals where people can go for flu and minor injury treatment. Use PA’s and interns for care givers and charge a modest amount say $5 or $10 per visit and have free follow ups.

    Or maybe have a small additional sum of money added to peoples health care premium to provide for those who cannot afford care. it would be cheaper in the long run.

    As you and Canadian Eh talked about above, universal health care will be taken advantage of by the people with an entitlement mentality.

  4. Mike Spindell,

    “The ‘abuse of the system’ you refer to comes about definitely because of the lack of universal health care insurance that forces people who feel sick to utilize the ER, rather than a primary care physician. Seeing a primary care physician can cost a minimum $150.”

    It’s strange that you’re going to blame a the cost of medicine for the ‘abuse of system,’ even though the vast majority of those people have alternatives for low- or no- cost medical care. I have personally set people up to be seen at a medical care mission (at no cost) only to have them miss their appointment and return to the ER (inappropriately) for follow-up care several days later. I’ve seen the same patient do this multiple times due to complaints that are -in no way- emergent. I know of many physicians who will gladly work with their patients so that they can afford medical care, some even going so far as to waive payment for minor problems. The people coming into the ER due to their cold symptoms or toothache that has been going on for three months are the problem, and that is no due to their inability to pay–it is laziness and entitlement, plain and simple–and even if health care were universal and free, they would still abuse the system.

    If you think ‘universal health care’ is the solution to ER overcrowding, you’ve taken 2 and 2 and come up to 7. It’s not going to work. For those people who try to ‘do the right thing’ and find/make an appointment with a PCP, they may find physicians unable to take on additional patients, even with insurance (as there is a shortage of PCPs as it is, and many are operating at near capacity) and for those who don’t care and think only of themselves first, they now have the ‘right’ to health care and should be seen -immediately-. Either way, those people are going to turn to the ER for their care, and given that many ERs are already operating at or over capacity, the additional strain is going to be like adding another ten-thousand vehicles to your rush-hour commute: it is going to grind things to a stop.

    I am not anti-universal health care. I think the proposed system is another compromise which allows everyone to be equally miserable and noone to be satisfied. There are other alternatives that would have much better results, but due to the political polarization of our country, neither has much chance of success. However, anyone who thinks that the proposed system (or any ‘universal system’ for that matter) is going to “solve” the ER waiting dilemma, it is a delusion. Things will get much worse before they get any better.

  5. A 6 hour ER wait is NOTHING!!!! There are hospitals in Canada where people wait for days in the ER before getting an in-patient bed. These are sick sick people who are waiting in the ER’s because frankly one needs to be very sick in order to even get a hopital in-patient bed!
    Universal Health Care is a great thing, if controlled well. Unfortunately, many ER rooms here are filled with people who are not presenting with emergency type conditions. Much of the needless visits to ER’s have to do with the long lists of people who are unable to find a primary care GP, and are forced into an ER to find medical help.
    Don’t even get me started on wait times for specialty services!!

  6. As someone who has had severe heart disease for the past 30 years I have had little trouble being treated quickly in ER’s. This in the main is because I usually came in via 911 and because I’d have to be in poor shape before I’d go to an ER. As a person with a severe heart condition any trip to an ER would mean perforce a hospital admission and so I would avoid them as much as possible.

    However, in my career I’ve had much experience in bringing people to ER’s and sometimes the wait is unconscionable, but necessary since in an over crowded ER triage is the name of the game. In 1979 I broke my tibia and fibula roller skating, was taken to an NYC hospital by ambulance and left to wait on a gurney for nine hours before I was seen and treated. In fairness the were hundreds of people there and while I was in discomfit there was nothing life threatening about my condition. With the over-privatization of Medicine that has been coming about since Reagan we have and will find the situation deteriorating further as time goes by.

    If a society is unwilling to invest in the health care of its’ citizens, then that care will deteriorate, especially due to the bottom line methods of corporations in the field. What I find laughable is that the money to invest in the care of our citizenry is said not to exist and yet we support a bloated military budget that exceeds the total of the rest of the world’s military budgets, at a time where we reign supreme militarily. We are fast becoming a modern version of empire and as with the Greeks and the Romans when empire arrives a republican form of government disappears.

  7. “The problem with Emergency Rooms isn’t based in national health care insurance or poor hospitals, or any other problem. It is people -abusing- the system. I would guess roughly 80% of what is seen in an emergency room isn’t an “emergency” at all, and many of those emergencies aren’t even life-threatening, but do require immediate treatment. The rest should be seen by primary care or other resources.”

    Andrew Austin,
    The “abuse of the system” you refer to comes about definitely because of the lack of universal health care insurance that forces people who feel sick to utilize the ER, rather than a primary care physician. Seeing a primary care physician can cost a minimum $150.
    If you don’t have health insurance you must pay in advance in most cases. In these times of a terrible economy and wages that have declined steadily, in real terms, over the last 25 years, many people simply can’t afford to see a primary care physician.

  8. When healthcare became the new Valhalla of profit taking….that’s when the quality left. Until these corporations driving forces are dealt with and curtailed the American people will be continually victimized as fodder for the corporate machines…I was a hospital nurse in the mid 80’s to the later 90’s and I watched the changes happen…we can thank the mesurance industry for much of the backward slide.

  9. The “wait times” that Press Ganey is referring to have nothing to do with how long you’re in the waiting room prior to being taken into ‘the back’. It has to do with how long patients are boarded prior to admission. This is the period between when a Physician decides that you need to go into the hospital proper overnight (or longer) and when you actually make it to a room–which CNN properly addresses in their article but you choose to ignore.

    The problem with Emergency Rooms isn’t based in national health care insurance or poor hospitals, or any other problem. It is people -abusing- the system. I would guess roughly 80% of what is seen in an emergency room isn’t an “emergency” at all, and many of those emergencies aren’t even life-threatening, but do require immediate treatment. The rest should be seen by primary care or other resources.

    Too many people think they have a clue about health care and the problems of it, and place the blame on whatever section of the problem is convenient at the moment. The problem is us as a society. Entitlement complexes and rampant abuses of system drive health care costs up for everyone, and usage of emergency resources for non-emergency care (usually a matter of convenience to the “client”) combined with frequent non-payment (for the uninsured/underinsured) or underpayment (for those with government insurance) kills it for the people with “good insurance” or those people who feel they should pay their bills (no matter how ridiculous they are). The national health care system is only going to make things -worse-, at least initially, as all these entitled people now feel that health care is their -right- and that they should be seen for their toothache of four months -immediately-, and overwhelm an already overwhelmed system, and then cost a veritable fortune to the taxpayer.

    Lastly, Press Ganey, which a tool that is in common use, is a game of statistics and “customer service”. While I don’t have any other tool, any system that focuses more on ‘happy customers’ and having ‘clients’ rate you well to ensure ‘good scores’ isn’t a good system to evaluate health care. Unfortunately, people are ignorant of medicine and what they frequently want is detrimental to society (e.g. everyone who’s gotten antibiotics for their viral infection and contributed to the growth of “superbugs” resistant to almost all known antibiotics.) If you refuse to give them what they want (antibiotics, steriods, pain medication) they will rate you poorly. You did what was proper, but they are unhappy, and your score sucks. Administration wants your scores to be better, so you have to give them “what they want” and all the sudden you have an outbreak of MRSA in a local day care. Oops, sorry, but at least my Press Ganey numbers were good.

    Health care isn’t as simple as an article, and politicians are the -least- appropriate people to be ‘solving’ this problem. Many of the regulations passed have been the -cause- of this healthcare crisis, so why do we think we can legislate our way out of it?

  10. i’ve found that bleeding on the floor, walls, seats, ect. will get you seen faster.
    dropped a knife and hit an artery in my foot. then had to explain to police because all knife wounds have to be investigated.

  11. If you call 911 and go the emergency room by ambulance they see you right away. If you go in on your own, you wait. At least that’s the way in Columbus, OH.

    Also found out the hard way if you are looking for a family member who is missing, don’t just call the hospital, call the emergency room as well. If they are in the emergency room they haven’t been admitted to the hospital and there wouldn’t be a record of them anywhere but the emergency room.

  12. Off topic: I saw this on the local news.

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBrJBap6r3w&fs=1&hl=en_US]

  13. Or don’t dye your hair. Senior citizens have government health care and get processed before others. If it bleeds it leads, of course.

  14. … or say you have chest pain.

    The wait time here is between 15 and 30 minutes and often the doctors will admit a patient through Emergency rather than on to the floor because treatment is faster.

    Virginia ain’t the only place that does it right … it’s just that, historically, they always think they are. 🙂

  15. Until we have health care for all, the waits will continue to grow. Especially in the larger metro areas. AY hit the nail on the head that the lack of insurance forces people to seek help in the emergency rooms.
    Mespo, I am glad your son’s issues were minor!

  16. Good advice:

    Ask for the charge nurse (or the nursing (shift) supervisor)

    If you have been waiting for a while, and feel like the situation is getting worse, ask for the charge nurse or shift supervisor. Experts in emergency medicine often define urgency using certain terms. They say to advise the person in charge that you think the patient has an “emergency medical condition that should be evaluated right away.” (CNN)

  17. Heck, here in Richmond we have billboards that tell you, in real time, how long your wait will be at various local hospital ER’s. It’s rarely more than 30 minutes. Usually it’s about 15 minutes. You can also get Tweets or text messages about the wait times. Bon Secous and HCA hospitals are leading the way around here to shorten wait times, and I do applaud them for that. I took one of my sons to the ER with chest pains (thankfully tuned out to be costocondritis) and we waited a grand total of 4 minutes. As we say around here, “As goes Richmond, ….” [Pardon the “chamber of commerce” style bragging]

  18. And we have to worry about this because people do not have health insurance and wait until things are really bad….everyone has to be taken care of equally….period…it is a critical priority decision…some….unfortunately die in the process…..yep…

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