Looks like I missed it by skipping the ACEP Fall meeting:
Many ER doctors say inpatient overcrowding – patients admitted after emergency treatment but parked in their department until rooms open up – is the major cause, and a national priority.
But Leavitt, who spoke at the American College of Emergency Physicians meeting Monday, said he believes the overcrowding is, rather, a matter of local hospital capacity and patients using the ER instead of a doctor’s office. “Emergency rooms ought to be kept for emergencies,” he said.
Inpatient overcrowding, he said, is a problem to be dealt with at the local level.
But doctors say the problem is that ER patients can’t be sent elsewhere in hospitals, causing an ER stackup that leads to inefficiencies and delays in treatment.
But Leavitt said the problem appeared spotty. “There are areas of the country with insufficient capacity. But in some areas they’re overbuilt,” Leavitt said.
This position met with disagreement:
Dr. Ramon W. Johnson, a ACEP board member from Mission Viejo, Calif., said Leavitt “dodged the question. He tried to make it seem a local issue. It clearly is a national problem.”
Dr. Todd B. Taylor, ACEP’s equivalent of speaker of the House, added, “Anybody who believes that inpatient crowding is not the problem with emergency departments just is not looking at the information.”
All emphasis added.
Yes, ER’s should be kept for emergencies. This has been flogged to death here, but: as long as the individual patient decides what’s an emergency and what isn’t (until the end of an apparently undefinable Medical Screening Examination), the ED’s will be crammed to capacity. More primary care offices (9-4:15 M-F, 1/2 day W or Th) aren’t going to do a heck of a lot to empty the ED.
Oh, and I want the data on those ‘overbuilt’ areas.