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Longer ER Waits Delay Delivery of Critical Care

Posted by Jane Akre
Tuesday, January 15, 2008 12:03 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Medical Malpractice and Negligent Care, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Medical Malpractice


Waits for emergency rooms are getting longer according to a Harvard Health study.


When a patient has a heart attack minutes count.

The quicker treatment is delivered the less damage results to heart muscle and the chance for recovery improves.

A Harvard Medical School study finds that those in most urgent need are waiting longer for urgent care.  Compared to 1997 when the wait was 22 minutes, a review of data shows that in 2004 that wait had increased to 30 minutes which can mean the difference between life and death.

The problem is that more people are using the emergency room for primary care and non-urgent needs while at the same time hospitals are reducing emergency facilities.

For heart attack patients the waiting time was eight minutes in 1997 and was up to 20 minutes in 2004.  

Heart attack patients should wait no longer than 90 minutes total time before receiving life saving balloon angioplasty otherwise heart muscle begins to die.  

The study, published in the journal Health Affairs  analyzed data on patient visits collected between 1997 and 2000 and again from 2003 to 2004. The data comes from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey, a national database.

If you are an African American or Hispanic your wait time tended to be longer for urban emergency rooms which are even more overcrowded. 

The strain on ERs around the country was covered in three reports by the Institute of Medicine, which concludes the country’s ER system is "overburdened, underfunded and highly fragmented." 

Caroline Steinberg, vice president of trends analysis for the American Hospital Association, tells the Washington Post, "We need to ensure that every American has health coverage so that the emergency department isn't their only point of access to care." #




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