It’s stressful enough when Illinois residents visit the emergency room with an unforeseen health condition. Now, reports are showing that overcrowding in ERs poses a serious health and safety hazard for the visitors. This is a problem that affects millions. In 2016, for example, 145.6 million people in the U.S. visited an ER with 12.6 million being admitted to the hospital afterwards.
Among other things, overcrowding can lead to delays, such as in the treatment of cardiac events or the administration of medication. It forces patients to stay in the hospital longer than necessary, and it increases the risk for medical errors, some of them life-threatening.
Overcrowding is largely caused by boarding: that is, having patients wait until a hospital bed is opened. This practice has arisen out of money problems, such as the rising cost of equipment and technology and the constraints posed by insurance companies. For example, Medicare reimburses hospitals more for surgical and elective procedures than for the simple managing of medical conditions. Consequently, hospitals place more attention on the former and give surgical specialists more leeway in scheduling. This creates “choke points” in the schedule and issues with bed availability for those in the ER. It’s not that beds are lacking, then, but that beds are assigned to certain specialties.
With so many people visiting ERs, it’s no surprise that malpractice claims would arise from injuries incurred in these settings. For example, boarding can cause a patient’s condition to worsen, or a doctor dealing with too many patients could become guilty of a missed diagnosis. Whatever the cause of the harm, victims or their family may want to see a lawyer before filing a claim. With a lawyer, they may be able to build up the case and strive for a fair amount in compensation.