The nation's emergency departments logged 110.2 million visits in 2002, an increase of 2.7 million compared with 2001, according to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition, patients generally spent more time waiting for and receiving treatment. In 2002, 41% of visits lasted 2 to 6 hours compared with 37% a year earlier. On average, patients spent 3.2 hours in the ER, up from 3 hours in 2001. The increase in length of visits is likely to continue, especially as the population ages, said Brian Hancock, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "Emergency department overcrowding is a growing and severe problem in the United States, and we all should be concerned," said Hancock. "As dedicated as emergency physicians and nurses are to caring for our patients, we may not have the resources or the surge capacity to respond effectively." Though recent attention has focused on the number of people seeking emergency care for routine medical problems, the biggest jump in volume in 2002 was among patients classified as needing care immediately or urgently--55% compared with 50.4% in 2001. Patients classified as nonurgent rose to 10.2% in 2002 from 9.1% the previous year. Read the report.-- by John Morrissey
CDC: ER visits, waiting times on the rise
Send us a letter
Have an opinion about this story? Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor, and we may publish it in print.