Raising Women’s Voices

Emergency Rooms can’t handle rising number of patients

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on December 9, 2008

We’ve been covering the rise in uninsurance as a result of job loss in the current state of the national economy, but as unemployment rates grow more severe with each passing month, the consequences of more and more Americans skipping out on regular care and visits to medical providers is starting to come to a head.

Doctors had already considered the country’s Emergency Room system in need of repair, but the number of new patients showing up to already-overcrowded hospitals as a medical last resort has been consistenly on the rise in recent months and the resources to treat this volume of people are just not available.  The New York Times reports:

“The number of patients coming to emergency departments has been steadily increasing. Helping push up that volume have been the growing ranks of the uninsured, because emergency rooms are legally obliged to see all patients who enter their doors, regardless of their ability to pay. But even insured patients who have no quick access to regular doctors are also showing up — among them older people, who represent the fastest growing population of emergency room visitors.

“Virtually every time I work a nine-hour shift, I encounter a couple of patients who have never been here before because they’ve just lost their insurance,” said Dr. Vincent J. Markovchick, the director of the hospital’s emergency medical services.

“I am definitely seeing patients coming in presenting worse in their illness because they are further along,” said Dr. Katherine A. Bakes, the director of the program’s emergency services for children.”

 Not all hospitals are experiencing an inundation of new, uninsured patients.  In fact, many others around the country are seeing declines in the number of visitors to their Emergency Rooms, most likely because people are avoiding expenses on anything other than what is entirely essential.  But it is anticipated that extended neglect in routine care and its effects on the need for catastrophic care down the line will only worsen with time.

“As the recession continues, many officials of the college of emergency doctors predict it is only a matter of time until the rising number of uninsured and the delays in getting primary care create a crisis.”

See the New York Times report here.

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