The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that emergency department visits rose to an all-time high of 115 million in 2005, 5 million more than in 2004.
Over the past decade, closure of emergency departments combined with the overall increase in visits resulted in a 31% increase in visits per emergency department, a CDC report found. There were 30,388 visits per emergency department in 2005 compared with 23,119 visits per emergency department in 1995.
Medicaid recipients had the highest rate of emergency visits88 per 100 people on Medicaid, more than Medicare enrollees and the uninsured. Nearly 42 million visits to emergency rooms were because of injuries, and the leading patient complaints, accounting for nearly one-fifth of all visits, were abdominal pain, chest pain and fever. Only 13.9% of visits were for nonurgent medical reasons such as bladder infections, high fevers and extremity injuries that could be fractures.
The American College of Emergency Physicians said in a written statement that the increases in visits combined with closure of emergency departments threaten the safety of patients and will further endanger an already fragile system.
With 315,000 people visiting emergency departments every day, the alarm bells are sounding and policymakers should heed the alert and respond, said Brian Keaton, ACEP president. The organization is supporting bills in the House and Senate that would create a national bipartisan commission that would examine factors that may impede the delivery of care in emergency departments. -- by Jennifer Lubell