July 25 2007
Emergency Room Wait Times
A woman walks into Los Angeles County hospital with a complaint of abdominal pain. After being checked in, hospital staff sees that she has recently been there three other times for the same complaint. She is seated in the waiting room. She vomits blood and collapses on the floor; her family urgently contacts staff informing them of her problem. They ignore the complaint. The family becomes so panicked they call 911 from a payphone near the entrance, only to find that they too ignore the complaint, telling them that there is nothing that they can do. A bystander in the waiting room sees the distress and the blood on the floor, he too calls 911, this time the emergency dispatcher chastises the caller and tells him "This line is for emergency purposes only " For 45 minutes this woman lays on the floor vomiting blood while hospital staff stands by and housekeeping mops the floor around her. She died soon after. (Ornstien) This is just one of many incidents to illustrate the need for the reduction of waiting time in emergency rooms across the nation. Although this is an isolated incident that shows gross negligence, similar events that are not as negligent, but just as irritating for patients, happen every day. The "wait" in the emergency room Wright p.2
is defined as the time between initial triage and being seen by the doctor. The national average waiting time in an emergency room has increased 18 minutes since 2006 despite efforts to reduce the wait. (Press Ganey) The national average this year is 222 minutes; this is 3 hours and 42 minutes. In Utah, however the wait is slightly longer at 4 hours and 5 minutes. As an employee in a very busy emergency room, I can see both sides of the argument. Hospital staff is over worked and understaffed leaving a large liability and gap in patient care. Patients complain that they are ignored and abandoned. Nurses complain they can't take care of so...