Patients at risk in overcrowded emergency rooms

On Behalf of | Jun 1, 2022 | Medical Malpractice

When Mississippi patients go to a hospital, they may encounter long waits in the emergency room or crowded settings, where it seems there is simply not enough space or medical professionals to care for everyone in a medical emergency. Visits to the emergency room have increased consistently across the country, with around 12.6 million of those incidents each year leading to a longer-term hospital admission, around 10% of total visits to the ER. With overwhelming numbers of patients seeking help in this emergency setting, they could face increased risks due to medical mistakes and errors.

Overcrowding can affect patient care

Some hospitals board patients, making them remain in the emergency room while waiting for an inpatient bed. As a result, both new emergency patients and those waiting for planned procedures are waiting together in the ER, and they may spend a number of hours waiting there. Overcrowded emergency rooms have a higher risk of medical errors, mortality, delayed treatment and longer hospital stays. With more patients to care for and less time to care for each one, their long-term health is at risk.

Why are the ERs overcrowded?

There are a number of reasons emergency rooms are overcrowded. With specialized, advanced and elective procedures bringing in greater sums of money for hospital management, they may allocate more funds for specialists rather than the emergency doctors or general internists needed for an emergency room. Even a very skilled and caring doctor may be at risk of medical malpractice when faced with an overwhelming number of patients.

There are actions hospitals can take to reduce the risks to patient care and health from overcrowded ERs. Shifting work schedules and prioritizing the hiring of more emergency room staff can be a key factor in avoiding preventable medical errors, as can scheduling surgeries to prevent boarding in the ER. Hospitals have the tools in hand to take action to prevent unwanted and dangerous patient outcomes.