-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with mental health
emergencies wait an average of 11.5 hours -- nearly half a day --
in hospital emergency departments, and those who are older,
uninsured or intoxicated wait even longer, a new study says.
Overall, patients with psychiatric emergencies wait about 42
percent longer in the emergency department than other patients,
according to the findings published online May 1 in the
Annals of Emergency Medicine.
"These patients are waiting the longest for care, and shrinking resources are having a disproportionate effect on these very vulnerable people," lead study author Dr. Anthony Weiss, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said in a journal news release.
The researchers looked at five hospital-based ERs within the
greater Boston area.
Weiss and colleagues analyzed the records of nearly 1,100 adults
patients with psychiatric emergencies to determine how long it took
patients to see a doctor and get a psychiatric evaluation. Patients
who were sent home after being seen by medical staff spent an
average of 8.6 hours in the emergency department, while patients
who were eventually admitted to a psychiatric unit within the
hospital had an average emergency department stay of 11 hours.
Patients who were transferred to an outside unit within the
local health care system stayed in the emergency department for an
average of 12.9 hours, while those transferred to a facility
outside the local health care system stayed 15 hours.
The average length of emergency department stay was 10.7 hours
for patients aged 18 to 39 and 12.6 hours for patients older than
60. The one-third of patients who tested positive for alcohol had
an average stay of 14.5 hours.
There were no differences in how long it took for patients with
public insurance such as Medicare or Medicaid or private insurance
to be treated; however, uninsured patients spent four more hours in
the ER than these other groups, according to researchers.
"Between 2000 and 2007, psychiatric visits to ERs grew by 231 percent," Weiss said. "This increase in volume, when combined with fewer resources outside the ER, has led to a real crisis for this population. Long waits for care aren't good for anyone but they are especially harmful to patients in psychiatric distress."
The American College of Emergency Physicians has more about
emergency department waiting times.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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