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Crowded ER's may pose serious health risks

Patients who enter the emergency room for immediate care or treatment may be at risk when emergency departments are crowded or understaffed. According to a recent study, the busiest days in emergency departments are also linked to a higher in-patient mortality risk and higher costs. For patients in New York City and nationwide, this could mean reduced levels of care, medical negligence, doctor error and refused treatment.

New research indicates that patients who entered emergency departments when they were so full that ambulances had to be turned away, had a 5 percent greater risk of death before discharge than patients admitted at less busy times. Patients who entered the ER on busier days also were at risk of longer hospital stays and higher costs for admission.

The evidence suggests that emergency department crowding is a source of reduced quality in care and a higher risk for patients. Understaffing and lack of insurance also creates longer wait times and busier emergency departments. This can result in misdiagnosis, delayed treatment or diagnosis, surgical errors, deadly drug interactions, or neglect.

Medical professionals who have reviewed the evidence believe that conditions could be improved if hospitals end the practice of ED boarding, which is the practice of having the patients stay in the emergency room until a hospital bed becomes available. This prevents the immediate care necessary for incoming patients.

If you or someone you love suffered a medical injury in an emergency room, you may be entitled to significant compensation. An experienced attorney can review your case and identify all responsible individuals and entities.

Source: MedPage Today, "Crowded ED's may be serious health hazard," Crystal Phend, Dec. 12, 2012

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