Average U.S. ER wait time 4-plus hours

July 26, 2010 at 1:34 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- The recession, high unemployment and loss of health insurance have resulted in longer wait times in U.S. hospital emergency rooms, researchers say.

Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians, who assessed the Press Ganey's Pulse Report 2010, says the report reveals the average length of stay in a U.S. emergency department increased to 4 hours, 7 minutes.

"The report finds pockets of good news, such as shorter times overall in Nevada, but nobody can possibly call a national average of more than 4 hours in the ER something to cheer about," Gardner said in a statement.

"Policymakers and the public should also have no illusions that the recently passed healthcare legislation is going to decrease ER use. Massachusetts, which enacted health care reform in 2006, has seen an increase in emergency department visits, with no decrease in patient acuity. It proves that healthcare coverage is no guarantee of healthcare access."

Hospital ERs continue to close, reducing access and more patients plus fewer ERs equals longer wait times and 25 percent of hospitals report periods of ambulance diversion, Gardner says.

"This report is yet another wake-up call that healthcare reform has yet to address the acute care needs of 123 million emergency patients a year," Gardner said.

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