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Emergency Room Crowds

Are they really that bad? - Hospital Emergency Rooms increasingly seem crowded and chaotic. George Bush suggested that if you didn't have health insurance, you could always go to an emergency room, so most people assume that's the reason for the long waits three, but it turns out that primary care (non-urgent patients with nagging colds, flu or aches) are NOT what is causing this overcrowding.

Researcher Andre Maddison wasn't sure what was causing the problem in Canada, where the situation is also endemic, so he decided to find out. He says, "I started with the view that due to a shortage of family doctors, people are going to emergency departments and overcrowding them. But in reality, why they are overcrowded wasn't known."

While 40 to 50% of cases in the ER are non-urgent patients, after extensive literature research and speaking with physicians, Maddison found that these patients were not overly burdensome. He discovered that patients in urgent need of acute care actually have a greater impact on overcrowding. He says, "We can't discount the affect of so many non-urgent patients, but they are certainly not the main part of the problem."

Maddison believes it's a system level problem, not isolated to the ER. "Emergency department overcrowding is a national problem with potentially devastating effects," he says. "It is rooted in insufficient physical and human resources and poor integration within and between hospitals."

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