Danielle (Dani) Cutler
Don’t Go To The Emergency Room When You’ve Got An Emergency
You know on ER and Chicago Hope when there’s a medical emergency — like,
oh, we don’t know...someone’s having a heart attack — the doctors drop everything
to save a patient’s life? Truth is, that’s fiction. [Washington
A new study conducted by Harvard Medical School shows that “patients are waiting longer
for care in the nation’s emergency rooms, a potentially deadly result of the shrinking
number of emergency departments and rising demand for emergency services.”
The numbers: Half of all emergency room patients waited 30 minutes or more before
being examined by a doctor in 2004, a 36 percent increase from a median wait time
of 22 minutes in 1997.
There’s more: Even those experiencing a heart attack are not assured speedy treatment,
with half waiting 20 minutes or more to be examined in 2004, up from eight minutes
in 1997, the study found.
Need a jolt to your memory? Let us point your attention to Edith Rodriguez, a Los
Angeles resident, who died waiting to be treated on the floor of Los Angeles’ Martin
Luther King Jr. Harbor Hospital. [ABC]
So what are the reasons that people are having to wait longer in emergency rooms?
For one, overcrowding. Three reports issued in 2006 by the Institute of Medicine,
a branch of the National Academies, concluded that the nation’s emergency medical
system is “overburdened, underfunded and highly fragmented.”
And, this pains us to say, the problem could also be race-based. Experts are finding
that wait times tended to be longer for African Americans and Hispanics, perhaps because
those patients are often treated in urban emergency departments, which are more likely
to be overcrowded than their rural counterparts.
But the real, looming issue? A lack of health care for an unacceptable number of Americans.
See, for some of the 43.6 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, the Emergency
Room is the only place where patients are guaranteed treatment — by law — regardless
of their ability to pay. [Mic
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