YOUR HEALTH: E.R. overcrowding, a public health crisis

Emergency rooms across the country are bursting.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:02 AM CDT|Updated: Mar. 22, 2023 at 6:26 AM CDT
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NEW HAVEN, Conn. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - First COVID, and this winter, add the respiratory virus RSV, and the flu. Emergency rooms across the country are bursting. E.R. overcrowding has been a health care problem for years, but now, health experts say it is reaching crisis levels. Here’s more on what that could mean for patients who need emergency treatment.

Imagine racing into your local emergency room and you wait not minutes, but hours to be seen, then E.R. doctors admit you to the hospital, but there are no beds at all.

Yale School of Medicine emergency room physician, Arjun Venkatesh, MD, and his colleagues have documented widespread and increasing overcrowding in a pair of newly published studies, the researchers looked first at the length of time patients waited in the E.R. before they were admitted.

“Those who come to the emergency department are evaluated, they receive diagnostics and treatments, and then, they need inpatient hospitalization. They need to stay in the hospital and are waiting two, three, four, up to 12 and 24 hours for a bed in the hospital,” Dr. Venkatesh emphasizes.

Researchers say that wait time, called boarding time, is well above the national recommendation, which is no more than a four-hour wait. As a result, Dr. Venkatesh says one out of every 10 patients wind up walking out.

The researchers say a healthcare worker shortage is contributing to hospital overcrowding - leading to the longer E.R. wait times. Dr. Venkatesh says hospitals may need to rethink how they deliver healthcare.

“We have to figure out how to get people back to the bedside who have the training and the skills to do it. And maybe, we start using artificial intelligence, computer technologies, other tools that we have to do the back office work so that those people can be taking care of patients and be more effective at doing that,” he adds.

Earlier studies have found the emergency department overcrowding leads not only to treatment delays but prolonged disease and death. For healthcare workers, overcrowding leads to higher doctor and nurse turnover, and higher burnout. And in a new study, published in December, researchers found that overworked E.R. doctors may be misdiagnosing patients coming through the doors.

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