Overcrowded emergency rooms pose problem

By Philippe Djegal - email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - If you do not have a primary care physician, then get one. That's because a visit to the emergency room can be costly and now, not just with money.

"I think ER overcrowding is an issue across the United States," said John Moore, with Mother Francis Hospital.

"Getting through the whole process of making the diagnosis and doing the tests - that can take 2.5, 3 sometimes 4 hours," said Art Chance, with East Texas Medical Center.

And, depending on the time of the year, ER overcrowding can be in an issue in East Texas as well. In 2004, Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler saw more than 52,000 visits to the emergency room.

"This last year it was over 67,000," said Moore. "So, we are seeing an increase."

"We are very busy," said Chance.

Vice-president of Operations at ETMC in Tyler, Art Chance, says patients are flowing into the ER.

"Our ER volumes have increased," said Chance. "Just in the last 12 months we've increase 2.4% in our ER volumes. We have well over 70,000 visits a year with our two ER campuses here."

Both hospitals credit the increase in visits to an increase in population. In 2004, the population in Smith County was just over 186,000 people. Today, that number has increased 7.5%, to more than 201,000 people. And, most of those people are over 50. And, with age, comes more need for medical care.

"And, cost is also a factor for some people," said Moore. "They don't have the money. So, they go to the emergency room."

But, hospital officials say the ER can end up costing hundreds of dollars more than the expense of visiting a primary care physician. That's because the physicians in the ER are specialty doctors, and you have to pay for the x-rays, the IV's and the cost to run the facility.

"If you're that sensitive and it's an emergency - and, you feel like it's an emergency - you should come," said Chance. "It's always better to err on the safe side and come."

But, if it can wait, then wait and it will probably save you some money. Officials said hospitals offer direct care facilities throughout East Texas for non-emergency medical needs.

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