Inappropriate emergency room visits on the rise

Inappropriate emergency room visits on the rise

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - When the state charity hospital Earl K. Long closed in April 2013, many residents without insurance or those who are underinsured were left with one less access point for care.

"In this community with the closure of Earl K. Long and the mental health emergency room, patients have been struggling to find out where they should go for care," said Dr. Floyd Roberts, chief medical officer at Baton Rouge General Hospital.  

Roberts explains that many patients who depended on Earl K. Long have now turned to other local emergency rooms for primary care which is part of a growing problem of inappropriate E.R. use.  For example, Baton Rouge General's Midcity E.R. has seen an addition of several hundred uninsured or underinsured patients a month since 2013.

Federal data indicates that from 2008 to 2012, there was a seven percent increase in ER visits nationwide.  In Louisiana, there was a 22% increase with a 17% increase in Baton Rouge alone.

However, Roberts says that when emergency rooms are overwhelmed with non-emergency cases, there can be costly delays in care that affect both patients and staff.  Fortunately, there is a better option for patients without insurance or limited care.

“There has been a great growth in access to urgent care centers across the country and Baton Rouge. There are many things that can be taken care of in urgent care situation," says Roberts.

Urgent care clinics can handle most non-emergency health needs including colds and even broken bones.  Urgent care is also cheaper, helping keep overall health care costs down, something Roberts say is important.

"The physicians and hospitals in Baton Rouge are all struggling to meet the economic challenges of the Affordable Care Act, closure of charity hospital and kind of the redesign of care. All of us realize that we're going to stand by and take care of patients without any more resources," said Roberts.

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