The emergency room (ER) is the front line when addressing health conditions and injuries requiring urgent care. Most patients in the ER have severe issues, making every second count. This part of the hospital often functions on a prioritization-based system. If a patient’s condition is not life-threatening, they might not be a priority, causing them to wait for a long time.
Contributing factors that can increase ER wait times
If patients wait too long to receive medical care, their condition may worsen. It might seem like an unlikely situation, but recent research shows otherwise. In California, researchers found ERs struggle to meet the public’s demand. As ER visits increased by 7% over the last decade, emergency care departments dropped by roughly 4%.
It can also mean that as the state’s population grew, it lost around 1,888 ER hospital beds due to department closures. Because of the shortage, most ERs in California have excessively long wait times, causing patients to worsen while waiting or leave without receiving proper medical care. In addition to walk-ins, ERs also receive ambulances transferring severe cases. As these high-risk patients pour into the ER, others may wait longer after getting deprioritized further.
Addressing long wait times
While proper rerouting of patients and system improvements can help address ER wait times, it might not be enough to bridge the gap between existing facilities and increasing demands. Existing data can help legislators make decisions and arrangements to address these issues over time. For now, patients should know how to advocate for themselves if long wait times are causing their conditions to deteriorate. If the healthcare provider’s negligence led to their worsening condition, it can be medical malpractice, making legal action appropriate based on the situation.