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Patient Care Suffers as ER Waits Increase

Article posted on: 02/12/2008

As reported in the Houston Chronicle last month, a new study has found that emergency room waiting times nationwide increased 36 percent between 1997 and 2004. The study, conducted by researchers from the Cambridge Health Alliance and Harvard Medical School, concluded that the increased wait likely has an adverse impact on patient care and may cause some to leave the hospital before seeing a doctor. Data for the study were based on the more than 90,000 emergency room visits in urban and non-urban areas.

Emergency room overcrowding is a widespread and debilitating situation in ER's across this country today. Anyone who has visited an emergency room over the past several years has surely noticed the clear signs: conference rooms and offices converted to patient care areas, waiting rooms mobbed with people, sometimes standing room only, stressed nurses and aides working round the clock to see patients. In most emergency rooms, patients with non life threatening injuries can expect to wait upwards of 90 minutes to see a physician. Factors that have contributed to overcrowding include the closings of a number of emergency departments nationwide, increasing volume of patients, increasing severity of illnesses that patients contract, the frequency with which a large percentage of the population without healthcare utilize emergency rooms as their "primary care physicians", nursing shortages, the fact that many underinsured or uninsured let their illnesses go on for weeks before seeking medical attention and the hospitals' decision to admit elective cases (higher payments) rather than allocating beds to admitted and waiting emergency room patients. Other factors include the lack of availability of nursing home beds to clear room for people with acute illnesses, the shortage of radiology and laboratory technicians to process critical tests in a timely fashion, thereby preventing hospitals from discharging or admitting these patients.

Unfortunately, one of the natural reprecussions of hospital overcrowding is that some serious and potentially life threatening conditions are overlooked and people suffer catastrophic or fatal complications while waiting to be seen by doctors simply because they didn't utilize "magic" words to get to the front of the line; i.e., complaining of symptoms associated with a heart attack, difficulty breathing or a stroke.

If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of an unnecessary delay in treatment at a hospital emergency room, contact the lawyers at Silverman Thompson for a free consultation. Our office routinely handles such cases and has handled them with success against hospitals including Johns Hopkins Hospital, University of Maryland Medical System, St. Joseph's Hospital, Union Memorial Hospital, Bon Secours Hospital, St. Agnes Hospital, Sinai Hospital, Anne Arundel County Medical Center, Howard County General Hospital, Frederick Memorial Hospital, Baltimore Washington Medical Center, Shady Grove Adventist Hospital, Washington Adventist Hospital and other facilities around the area. Our lawyers generally handle these matters on a contingency basis which means that we lay out the expenses for our clients and only seek reimbursement and attorneys' fees following the successful resolution of the case by way of settlement or at trial or on appeal.

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