September 14, 2021

Prolonged Wait Times in the Emergency Department

Memorial Health System (MHS) Emergency Department staff in Abilene wants you to know how important you are!  While the word “emergency” is found in the title of the department, the definition of the word can be contradicting in these times we find ourselves in. Visiting the Emergency Department with an immediate ailment may leave our patients feeling like they are unimportant with the time it takes for staff to treat them.  It is important to help our patients understand why these longer wait times exists.

When asked about the longer wait times, Dr. Holmes replied, “With the ER being busier, wait times will unfortunately increase.  There are only so many rooms and so many staff to take care of the patients.  Each patient is important, but those who are sicker or with more time critical problems will take precedent over those patients with more minor complaints.”

Emergency Departments across the state are struggling with the increased load of COVID patients and how to deal with it.  If a patient needs to be transferred to a higher level facility it can be a difficult and timely challenge to find a location to transfer them to.  Some days it is impossible.  Dr. Holmes adds, “Recently we have had to transfer several patients out of state who required Intensive Care Unit (ICU) care because we could not find an ICU bed in Kansas.” 

Another reason for longer wait times in the Emergency Department, is due to the length of the stay that is common among COVID patients.  Dr. Holmes said, “COVID patients tend to stay longer in the hospital, both in the ICU and in the regular inpatient rooms, as they tend to be sicker and require longer recoveries.  This has led to a shortage of ICU beds across Kansas and many other states as well in the US.  Dealing with the increased volume of COVID patients has strained our ability to take care of other more common problems like heart attacks, strokes, trauma, and even diseases like pneumonia.”

The physicians at MHS recommend that all those eligible get vaccinated. This will help decrease the numbers of patients, thus decreasing the wait times in the Emergency Department.

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