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ER Wait Times Getting Longer
Date:1/15/2008

Even those needing most urgent care are waiting more, study finds,,,,

TUESDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- The last thing you want to hear in the emergency room when you've got crushing chest pain or can't breathe is that you have to wait before you can get treatment.

Unfortunately, in too many instances, that's exactly what's happening. In fact, new research found that waiting times in emergency rooms have increased by 36 percent for all patients, to an average of 30 minutes per patient. And the sickest sometimes have to wait the longest: As many as one-quarter of all heart attack patients had to wait 50 minutes or longer before seeing a doctor.

Study author Dr. Andrew Wilper, a fellow in general internal medicine at Harvard Medical School and an internist with the Cambridge Health Alliance, reports in the Jan. 15 online issue of Health Affairs that the increasing wait times are the result of a "perfect storm" that has occurred as emergency room visits are on the rise while many ERs are closing their doors.

"It's hard to ignore the fact that several hundred ERs have closed their doors, and we've seen an increase in the number of patients using ERs. Plus, there are a number of internal factors contributing like bottlenecks because of a lack of inpatient bed space and a lack of specialists available to treat patients," Wilper explained.

"The real problem is that patients are backing up in the ER. If a patient is still in the ER six or even 12 hours later, it means that room, that nurse and that equipment just aren't available for the next patient that comes in the door," explained Dr. Art Kellermann, a spokesman for the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Kellermann said a good analogy to this situation would be if controllers at a busy airport started parking planes on the runways. "We'd think they'd lost their minds, but that's what hospital administrations are doing with ERs," sai
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