About seven of every 10 Americans believe hospital emergency rooms are approaching a crisis of overcrowding, a conclusion already reached by most of the doctors who work in them, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians, which has focused much of its work on relieving ER overcrowding.
The survey by the trade group for ER doctors queried 800 registered voters earlier this month. More than half of the survey respondents said they were also concerned about ambulance diversion because of overcrowding, with 32% saying they felt diversions were happening "too often."
The problems of overcrowding "will only worsen unless we can develop and implement effective solutions," said Robert Suter, D.O., president of the ACEP.
Between 1993 and 2003, visits to the nation's emergency rooms increased by about 26%, ACEP officials said. During the same period, the number of hospital ERs fell by about 14%, the officials said.
In a separate survey of about 340 ER physicians, also conducted by the ACEP, about 70% of the doctors said they have experienced or heard about local instances of "boarding," the practice of holding patients in the emergency department until space in the hospital is available.