Rochester, N.Y. – Dave Spiro went to Strong Memorial Hospital’s emergency room in January. He was taken by ambulance with serious flu complications.
“When they wheeled me in on the stretcher I had at least three or four stretchers, ambulances ahead of me waiting,” he said. “I was on the stretcher for a good hour before they were able to find a bed for me in the ER itself.”
Spiro spent 20 hours in the emergency room before getting admitted and moved to a hospital room.
“It is taxing because you just want it to be over with,” Spiro said. “Get me in my bed, let me get rest. I can’t sleep really.”
Alison MacDonald went to Rochester General Hospital’s emergency room last month for severe stomach pains. She spent nine hours in the emergency room before being admitted for surgery.
“Ultimately, when you’re not feeling well, it’s kind of hard to be sitting and waiting for eight or nine hours,” MacDonald said. “They had beds in places I didn’t even know they could put them.”
New federal data on emergency room waiting times shows Rochester area hospitals fair poorly among hospitals across the country. The data was compiled by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services and posted online
. The data covers January to March of 2012.
This story will look at several measurements of time spent in the emergency room: admission, going home and initial evaluation by a health professional.Lack of Beds
The patients who spend the most time in the emergency room are the ones who are sick enough to be admitted to the hospital.
Here’s the average amount of time patients waited from their arrival to the time they were admitted:Strong:
11 hours, 30 minutesUnity:
10 hours, 22 minutesRochester General:
7 hours, 15 minutesHighland:
5 hours, 2 minutesState Average:
6 hours, 6 minutesNational Average:
4 hours, 37 minutes
Hospitals say the biggest factor in the amount of time people spend in the emergency department is the availability of inpatient beds. Emergency rooms get overcrowded when hospitals are full. Patients who need to be admitted linger in the emergency room, sometimes in beds lining hallways. The situation can be stressful for patients and staff.
“I think given the number of beds we have in the community today, it’s very difficult for us to manage those surges,” said Strong Memorial Hospital Chief Operating Officer Kathy Parrinello. “We do have fewer beds per capita in the greater Rochester region than in many regions in the country.”
A 2008 Finger Lakes health Systems Agency study recommended the area add up to 147 hospital beds. In addition to upfront capital costs, adding beds is an ongoing expense for hospitals because they must be staffed appropriately. Since the study, the three major hospitals have added beds to meet the need or are in the process of adding beds.
“We run a pretty tight ratio of beds to population,” said Nancy Adams of the Monroe County Medical Society. We do that for a number of reasons. It’s incredibly expensive to add beds.”
Dr. Keith Grams, Chief of Emergency Medicine for Rochester General, says if a patient is stuck in the emergency for a long period of time, it’s important to keep her updated.
“The hallway situation is definitely difficult,” Dr. Grams said. “It’s often that we don’t know when a bed will become available, but what we do work on is making sure they know what’s going on their care, keeping them comfortable, making sure they’re getting what they need.”