Crowding in an emergency room is as it sounds: the ER is crowded with too many patients. Common causes include:
- Increased number of uninsured that are waiting longer to seek medical care, and are sicker when they seek care, requiring more medical care
- Increase in population
- Reduction in the number of ERs
- An aging population that requires more health care resources
- A decreased number of inpatient hospital beds
Slate.com says it's the allure of the one-stop shop that leads to ERs crowded with people who shouldn't be there. And medical weblog KevinMD.com suggests that overcrowding is due, in part, to the fact that primary physicians have little incentive not to suggest their patients go to the ER.
Regardless of the cause, the statistics speak for themselves. Government statistics showing that the number of annual visits to emergency rooms jumped to a record high of 119.2 million in 2006 – up from 115 in 2005. There is now an average of 227 visits per minute to emergency rooms across the country.
The statistics also show that from 1996 to 2006, the number of emergency patient visits rose from 90.3 million to 119.2 million – an increase of 32 percent or an average annual increase of nearly 3 million visits per year. At the same time, the number of ERs across the nation decreased from 4,109 to 3,833.
In short, the number of people seeking emergency medical care shot up while emergency rooms across the country closed. As a result, the remaining ERs are becoming more and more crowded as an already overwhelmed system tries to handle the demand.
If passed by Congress, the Access to Emergency Medical Services Act can help address the issue of crowding in our nation’s emergency rooms. Take action now by contacting your legislators today to urge their co-sponsorship of this important legislation and to hold hearings on the critical state of emergency care.