More Patients Visiting Fewer ER Facilities

March 15, 2016

Chest pain, abdominal pain, broken bones, upper respiratory infections, back pain, skin infections, foreign objects in the body, and headaches are some of the most common reasons that people seek help at an emergency room. When you are severely ill or critically injured, you expect that you will receive prompt and proper care at the ER. Unfortunately, many people have learned the hard way that these expectations are misplaced. Emergency rooms are not always well staffed or well run. When processes break down, mistakes can be made, and the patients often suffer from medical malpractice.

Emergency departments have seen a steady rise in patients since gaining healthcare access under the Affordable Care Act. A survey of 2,098 emergency room doctors conducted in March of 2015 revealed that three-quarters had noticed an increase in patients since January 2014. The year before, less than half of the doctors surveyed reported an increase. One theory is that newly insured Medicaid recipients turn to the ER because they cannot schedule appointments or find doctors that will take their coverage due to low reimbursement rates. There is also a shortage of primary care physicians.

Another possible reason is that many ERs and hospitals have closed due to financial troubles. Six percent of the nation’s emergency rooms have closed in recent years, causing overcrowding, longer wait times, and higher mortality rates in the ERs that remain. The effect on quality of patient care at other hospitals within the same service area is disturbing. Higher caseloads make it more likely that important details will get missed, which can lead to medication errors, misdiagnosis, surgical mistakes, and communication problems.

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the number of emergency rooms nationwide dropped between 1996 and 2009 from 4,884 to 4,594, while the number of visits to the ER increased from 90.3 million in 1996 to 136.1 million in 2009. While ERs are trying to adapt, seven in ten doctors say their emergency departments aren’t ready for continuing, and potentially significant, increases in volume.

Hospital emergency rooms are stressful places – both for staff and for patients. Medical negligence can and does happen there, resulting in injury and even death. If you were harmed due to complications arising from overcrowding in an emergency room, or if you lost a loved one due to the medical malpractice in an emergency room, the attorneys at Wapner Newman can help. We encourage you to contact us today by calling 1-800-529-6600 or filling out a free case evaluation form.