Sunday, January 16, 2011

Emergency Rooms

One of my pet peeves is the misuse of Emergency Rooms. They are not for people with sniffles, sore throats, etc. They are for true emergencies - allergic reactions to bee stings, heart attacks, appendicitis, car accidents, limbs dripping blood, etc. Personally I will not go to an emergency room unless I would die before my doctor's office next opened up.

The last time I went to an emergency room was when I was told by my doctor to go to there because I needed to be admitted due to low blood counts during chemo. I waited approximately 8 hours to get admitted so I might as well as gotten a good night's sleep at home and called my doctor in the morning. If that ever happens again, I will wait until the next morning and go see my doctor and get admitted that way.

I just read this account (not for the squeamish) of the Tucson hospital's emergency room after last weekend's shooting. This is what, unfortunately, emergency rooms are designed to treat. They use a triage system and if you show up for sniffles, you are going to wait. If you walk in with chest pains, you will not wait. Copious amounts of blood are also treated quickly, little cuts which need stitches get to wait.

Emergency rooms are designed to treat trauma. They are also mandated to treat everyone who shows up in one. This causes a problem because people without insurance know this and are forced to use them because they have no other access to care. Or you sprain your ankle on a Saturday night and you end up in the ER as well.

The problem is that this overloads the ER system who then are facing urgent and non urgent patients. The non urgent patients get treated eventually but they face long waits. They truly do need treatment but not at the ER level. But if there is no other access to care due to weekend, overnight, lack of insurance etc, they have no choice.

This is another example of where our health care system needs some changes. Where I am treated, they have an ER, open 24/7, and also a non-urgent walk in clinic - which is not open 24/7. The clinic helps if I have sprained my ankle and need to see someone, or a sick child with an ear infection needs to see a doctor. But after hours, there are no choices.

Work with me here, with national health care where everyone has insurance, what if hospitals had emergency rooms that were side by side with 24/7 walk in clinics? You go to the same part of the hospital and if you are dripping blood and need immediate care, you are triaged and seen by someone asap. But if you have a child with an ear infection or an ankle sprain, you are sent to a separate area where you wait with everyone else in order to be seen by a doctor for a prescription or to be sent for an x-ray.

We all need a place to go for the nanosecond of stupidity which results in a bump on the head or to talk care of the child who runs into a door while chasing a sibling but we need to stay out of the way of the car accident victims.

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