Healthy Headlines ER - October 2012


When a person is ill and considering whether or not to go to the emergency room he or she should not have to worry about the bill.  In this country most cities and towns have an emergency department that is open twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  These emergency rooms are staffed with motivated, caring, and capable individuals.  The people that frequent these departments throughout the state of Kansas, and the country for that matter, very well may have life-changing moments during their visit.  Some disease process or physical ailment that is actively becoming a life-threating event can effectively become an event that is overcome.  Those few critical moments can change the course of an individual’s life.  This type of event occurs in emergency rooms on a daily (and nightly) basis.  However, there are individuals who become trapped in this crucial moment in time, frozen by the ultimate question, “Do I go to the ER, get immediate help, and face the onslaught of medical bills? Or, do I just tough it out and try to get to my doctor tomorrow?”

For many Kansans, as well as throughout this nation, this question is posed day (and night) while these ER’s are open for business.  It appears it isn’t always a question of access to care but a question of the potential financial downfall of the individual who uses such facilities.  Does a person who works hard and worries about paying their bills dare use a healthcare facility that may have significant financial complications to the people who use it?  For some, this question is quite easy to answer.  Some will say if their health depends on it then the answer is, “absolutely!”  However, for others it makes for a little more serious pondering.

The fact is emergency room costs can be expensive.  Sometimes, depending on the initial severity of the presentation to the emergency room there can be extensive wait times.  The ER experience begins when the paramedics and EMT’s arrive at the scene and continue until the patient is either admitted to a medical, surgical floor or discharged to home. The waiting rooms in most ER’s can appear chaotic and at times bewildering.  Nonetheless, the men and women who work within these medical juggernauts, whether it’s in the back of an ambulance or in the emergency room, are dedicated individuals that work long hours while frequently being understaffed.  The individuals that I have spoken with about their typical work environment tell me they stay in their chosen field for one reason:  They love to help others.

Throughout Kansas and the rest of the country there are physicians, paramedics, registered nurses, emergency medical technicians, respiratory therapists, and medical aides that devote their lives for the betterment of their fellows.  These healthcare professionals work at these facilities; literally, day and night.  These folks are there to complete one critical task: improve patient outcomes.  No matter if it is two pm or two am, whether you happen to be young or old, the emergency room and the people who work there are there for you and your family.

The CDC classified only 12.5 percent of emergency department visits as nonurgent in 2006. A nonurgent visit is classified as a patient who needs treatment between 2 and 24 hours, semiurgent (between 1 and 2 hours), urgent (15-60 minutes) and emergent (less than 15 minutes).  In other words, the majority of individuals during that time period needed to be seen between less than fifteen minutes and two hours.

In life anything can happen at any moment in time.  Even with the most independent, proud, stoic individuals emergencies may occur.  It is in those times to remember there are many people who are right there to help you at any hour of the day.  The few critical moments that may change your life as well as the life of your family members may very well depend on the decision that you make.  That is, whether or not to use the emergency room facilities that are readily available.  When it comes to concerns regarding your health there are qualified people at the ready to help you at any time, day or night.  Furthermore, hospitals understand for their patients the times are tough and financial strain is currently being felt now more than ever.  Specifically, in the emergency room all patients will be provided the highest quality of care regardless of the ability to pay.  Hospitals will work with you after your discharge regarding your medical expenses.  Some compromises include installment payment plans.   

At any time if you are concerned about your current health there are others that are concerned as well.  These people are found within the emergency rooms and ambulances throughout Kansas and the rest of the country. Utilize these people to get your health back on track.  If, or when, you find yourself in a potentially emergent situation make the call. That critical action may change your life.  

As with all medical conditions, always feel free to contact your physician or healthcare provider with any questions or concerns.

Dr. Weintz is the author of, “Healthy Headlines.”  He is a family physician at Stanton County Family Practice.

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