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MORNING STAR • AuGuST 14 - 20, 2008

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Health Long waits at the ER are difficult to avoid By Anthony Policastro

When I was in the Air force, my hospital had the second busiest emergency room in the entire Air Force. When you consider that it was the 16th biggest hospital, that is pretty impressive. When you consider that we only saw 4,000 patients a year less than the biggest Air Force Hospital, that was more impressive. To put it into a local perspective, my hospital was about one third the size of Nanticoke Memorial Hospital. However, we saw twice as many ER patients as Nanticoke does. As you might expect there were times when the ER was overwhelmed with patients. When that happened, I had the ability to do several things. First, Air Force hospitals have many out patient areas. For that reason, I could open the examining rooms in a clinic near the ER. It allowed me to have more patients in rooms. The second thing I could do was to call in the pediatrician, family practice physician and internist on call to help. Since they all worked for the hospital I could do that. The third thing I could do was to go to the medical dormitory and ask support personnel to come in and help the on call doctors.

Those support personnel usually arrive in the ER, all other patient care staffed the outpatient clinics and were must stop until the patient is treated. off when those clinics were closed after Therefore, if there are life threatening hours. The result was a quick fix to the emergencies when you are waiting, your backlog. wait will be longer. Many people have The second reason had very long waits ER’s in this country often is that some people in emergency rooms. have emergencies that Civilian ER’s do not have long waits. There is no are not life threatening. have the ability to get However, they need to extra help. When the be seen before patients one reason why that is so. assigned staff gets with minor problems. overwhelmed, they That is why there is no one They take precedence must work through the as well. That will also backlog. prolong the wait for fix for it either. There are no nearby other patients. additional exam rooms. The third reason is There are no on call physicians who that patients will fill an ER when they do work for the hospital. not have an emergency. They are all in private practice and In some cases, it is because they only on call for patients that need to be could not get an appointment with their hospitalized. primary care physician (PCP). In other There are no extra staff. People are cases, it is because they could get an either already working or just coming off appointment with their PCP, but it would a shift. For those reasons, most civilian not be soon enough. In some other cases, ER’s will have periods with very long they do not have a PCP to call. waits. The result is that they have to go to Those waits are created for multiple the ER. They should not be there, but reasons. The first is that the purpose of have no other choice. an ER is to treat emergencies. There are A fourth reason is that people think very few people with life threatening that they have an emergency when they emergencies. However, when one does

Kris Smith, Chuck Landon, Dave Smith and Representative Daniel Short make up Integra Administrative Group’s 2007 $1,000 Titanium Foursome.

LDAF plans annual golf tournament

The Lower Delaware Autism Foundation’s 6th Annual Beach Classic Golf Tournament is Monday, Sept. 15 at Baywood Greens in Long Neck. Registration and a putting contest begin at 10 a.m. followed by lunch at 10:30 a.m. and a shot gun start at noon with a scramble format. The tournament will feature prizes, contests, lunch on the verandah and a cocktail reception with auction. Graphite Foursomes are $700 and

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do not. When I was in the Air Force, I gave patients a questionnaire about their reason for being in the ER. Many of them said that they were there because they had a real emergency. When we reviewed their charts, we found that 20% of them did have a real emergency. The other 80% did not. They thought they did. They had no medical training so there was no way that they could tell the difference. It was appropriate for them to be in the ER since they did not know any better. The result of all of this is that it is very difficult to predict how many patients will actually show up in an ER. For that reason, it makes staffing difficult to predict. In addition, certain times of the day are busier than others. Staffing must be aimed at guessing how much staff to have when it gets busy. That is not as predictable as one might expect. For all these reasons, ER’s in this country often have long waits. There is no one reason why that is so. That is why there is no one fix for it either. The flexibility that I had in the Air Force is not present in civilian hospitals. Therefore, waits are common to see and hard to correct.

August 14, 2008_S  

VETERAN TOM SAWYER - He witnessed the worst pain and suffering that one nation could inflict on another. Page 8 WORST NIGHTMARE - What happe...

August 14, 2008_S  

VETERAN TOM SAWYER - He witnessed the worst pain and suffering that one nation could inflict on another. Page 8 WORST NIGHTMARE - What happe...