A recent report, released by the American College of Emergency Physicians, states the nation’s system of emergency rooms is in serious trouble. More and more unemployed or uninsured Americans are turning to emergency rooms as a last resort becaue emergency rooms are legally obligated to see all patients who enter their doors, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. Doctors warn that the facilities, which are already overburdened, could have even more trouble handling cases of broken bones, heart attacks and other traumas that they deem their core mission. Even before the recession, emergency rooms around the country were reporting dangerously long waits for patients and the frequent need to redirect ambulances to other hospitals. Just two years ago, a government survey found there were about 120 million visits to emergency rooms annually, a third higher than a decade earlier. Even then doctors called emergency rooms overburdened, so a recession will just make conditions worse; hospitals will have to absorb the unpaid medical bills and some are already experiencing a much higher influx of patients without insurance.
escalating number of uninsured and the delays in getting primary care create a crisis. One of the physicians’ major concerns is the potentially long wait by patients requiring a hospital bed. After surveying its members last year, the doctor’s group learned of at least two hundred fatalities related to the practice of “boarding”, in which patients on stretchers line the corridors of the facility until they can be moved into a bed.