ER doctors ignore patients on their death beds

U.S. patients have to spend a lot of time waiting for medical aid while in emergency rooms. A new study conducted at Harvard Medical School revealed that a half of all ER patients waited for 30 minutes or even longer before they could be examined by doctors in 2004. The research showed that the waiting rime for ER patients increased: in 1997 patients had to wait for about 22 minutes, Health Affairs journal wrote today.

Even those suffering from a heart attack do not receive speedy treatment. In 2004 heart attack patients waited for 20 minutes, although the waiting time was shorter – eight minutes – in 1997, the study found.

It just so happens that those patients, whose life greatly depends on immediate treatment, see the biggest increase in waiting time. Every second of delay in medical treatment for a patient experiencing heart attack implies a greater risk of lethal outcome. However, heart attack patients waited for care 150 percent longer – 20 minutes on average.

"The percent changes are unsettling," says Andrew Wilper, an internist at Harvard Medical School "This is something that affects all of us. It means prolonged pain and suffering, and very possibly, people who arrive with time-sensitive illness are getting hurt."

"We can no longer guarantee that a bed is going to be available when you have your heart attack. I hope this is a wake-up call to society,” says Linda Lawrence, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

The study of Harvard Medical School did not touch upon the issue of patient survival. The researchers do not know if those who waited an hour or so passed away because of the delay. But the first-of-its-kind review of more than 90,000 emergency department visits nationwide shows the effect overcrowding has on emergency care, Wilper says.

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