Dear readers: My June 30 Publisher's Letter ("Don't play the waiting game," p. 22) sparked a flurry of letters from readers, some supportive and others decidedly not. The piece was about my experiences with long waits in emergency rooms. I have replied to all the letters in private but would like to share with readers a sample of the feedback. Thank you.
I am surprised and disappointed by this Publisher's Letter. You have been writing lately about fairness, character and values. A person of strong values and character does not use his or her position to gain advantages over those without such positions; witness your attempts at both institutions to get favored treatment.
Moreover, the very problems you encountered of "slow" service must not have been a surprise given that you made calls in advance to administrators to get better treatment.
The paperwork nightmare is a government-created problem, not a hospital-created problem, and you know it. You also know that emergency departments triage and that if you had been seriously injured you would have received rapid attention without an advance phone call.
Your entire article is grossly unfair to the very large majority of administrators, physicians and nurses who strive hourly to meet the needs of local residents, many of whom wrongly rely on emergency departments for their primary care.
More specifically, your comments about the security officer are probably unfair. Based on the attitude illustrated by the tone of your letter, I suspect that you were not displaying the best attitude yourself and were communicating that visibly to the security officer.
I am sure that you are a busy person but please consider going back to the emergency departments of those two institutions and stay from 6 a.m. to midnight in each one observing what really occurs. Then write another Publisher's Letter. I bet it would be different.
Healthcare practice for aging excellence
You have hit on the topic most near and dear to my heart-the lack of service in emergency departments. Some years ago, Peter Friend and I published a book about urgent-care centers. They were a direct outgrowth of dissatisfaction with the level of service provided by most ERs.
What continues to frustrate me is the reluctance of management to take a few simple steps that would so greatly enhance the quality of service. They should be looking at improving service, better managing the revenue cycle and enhancing care.
The article would have had a greater impact on me if you had conveyed an understanding of the concept of triage, addressed the issue of the shortage of healthcare workers, acknowledged the hard work of those who remain in the trenches, or expressed concern for what the average person (much less the disenfranchised elements of our society) must face when they present themselves in the ER for nonlife-threatening problems.
Registered nurse, patient documentation analyst
Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center
I agree with you that we need to do a better job of meeting the service needs of our patients.
As a community hospital, we have taken this issue very seriously and have had teams in place actively working to reduce wait times while improving patient satisfaction.
I am pleased to inform you that we now are advertising that a patient not only will be triaged but initial care will be initiated within 15 minutes, too. This could be something as simple as an ice pack, etc.
In fact, if we fail to meet this expectation, we will give the patient two movie passes. That is our promise!
Our hospital emergency staff and physicians are very committed to fixing the problems that you encountered and we are succeeding.
Chief executive officer
Glendale Heights, Ill.
I was astounded that you found it so surprising that you received treatment more promptly in the physician's office than you did in the emergency department. Of course, you received more prompt care-a doctor's office is where you should have been for this follow-up to begin with. One of the biggest reasons that our insurance rates con-tinue to skyrocket is our overuse of emergency departments.
Director of nursing services
Cedar County Memorial Hospital
El Dorado Springs, Mo.
I agree that there is no room for rudeness or attitudes from any hospital staff member. However, this type of behavior should be reported to the administration, not security personnel.
It is obvious that you believe that your social status or personal acquaintances should have enabled both you and your golf friend-"the vice chairman of a Fortune 500 company"-to obtain more timely ER service. Our emergency room staff focuses on the patient's condition and not his or her social status when providing services.
Director of nursing
Irwin County Hospital