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Speak Up: How Long Have You Waited in the ER?

A study shows that waiting times in emergency rooms are long, and dangerously long at that.
Harvard Medical School reviewed data from over 92,000 emergency room visits, and found that in 2004, about a quarter of heart attack victims waited 50 minutes before receiving care. The average wait for a heart attack victim clocked in at about 20 minutes in 2004, up from eight minutes in 1997. Overall, the time of emergency room waits for all types of injuries grew 36 percent between 1996 and 2004.

Harvard's Dr. David Hammerstein, who participated in the study said, "One contributor to ED (Emergency Department) crowding is Americans' poor access to primary and preventive care, which could address medical issues before they become emergencies." No wonder all the 2008 presidential candidates are scrambling to create plans for updating our health care system.

Have you ever been to the ER for yourself or with a friend, loved one, or child? How was your experience? How long was your wait? Speak up and tell me all about it in the comments section below.


Join The Conversation
blondey blondey 8 years
I am a nurse and have had problems with a chronic illness which sends me to the ED about 4-5 times per year. When I arrive, I tell them about the pancreatic disease I have and one look at me and I am usually taken back right away.... I have had to wait up to 4-5 hours at times, however. Someone posted earlier not to go on Mondays (this is true) because this is the day most people come in - after the weekend. The best time to go is in the middle of the night (if you can wait) on a week night. Between 1-3 am. :o
swt-strwbrry-sgr swt-strwbrry-sgr 9 years
luckily, I have only been to the er twice. the first time was about a 45 minute wait and the other was only about 20 minutes. That is in terms of before being seen. Now, once I was seen, it took approx. 2 hours both times for something quite simple really. the first time was a car accident and I just needed to be checked out b/c I bmped by head. the second time was for chest pains but they had to run this test, tht test and another test before releasing me.
etoile3 etoile3 9 years
In NY I had to wait for about 3 hours in the ER with a ruptured ovarian cyst. (I was in pain but I expected the wait so I wasn't too angry). Also, my friend with heart arrhythmia was seen immediately. Here in London (England), however, we have National Health Insurance, and when my friend with a maldeveloped kidney was urinating thick blood about a month after heaving a kidney surgery in NY and had incredible pain, we had to wait for SIX HOURS in the waiting room, and then TWO more after he was given a bed. After that, they finally checked him, told him that he has to be admitted and needs to have some tests done. However, they told him to go home to sleep and come back at 9 am just so he doesn't take up a bed, breakfast and whatever other resources they have. See, I understand the benefits that universal healthcare brings to those that can't afford health insurance. BUT, what it also does is it forces doctors and other health care workers to cut costs. By doing so, you are simply turned away from doctors, even your GP. For example, my doctor refused to give me antibiotics for an ear infection that lasted a MONTH and waited until my condition was extremely severe and the infection spread into the inner ear!!! How ridiculous! But she kept saying "Maybe it'll clear up on its own, NHS has its policies about that"...
dotsca dotsca 9 years
Over the holidays I was diagnosed with strep and mono and I've never been sicker. It took me 4 days to get through half a pint of water because my throat was so swollen. Anyway, on December 23rd I started to cough up blood and so we went to the ER expecting to wait for a long time, seeing as it was the holidays. When we got there, though, I was surprised when I was immediately seen and taken to a room and hooked up to an IV and was treated for dehydration. I was out of there in less than 2 hours, and feeling much better. Also, when my father's hip was dislocated we didn't have to wait any longer than ten minutes, and this was on Thanksgiving.
heath328 heath328 9 years
About three years ago, my Mother had a 103 degree fever for 3 days straight. She finally decided to go to the ER on New Year's Eve. I agreed to go with her. We got to the hospital at 4 PM and they did not take her back until 9 AM the next day! Because it was New Year's Eve the ER was a nightmare. There were a lot of injuries due to drunkeness and stupidity and we had to wait while they were all seen before my mother! When they finally took her back we found out that she had pneumonia and she had to stay in the hosiptal for a week. They told us that had she called an ambulance she would have been taken back right away because she was very sick. When she had made the decision to go to the hospital, she had decided against the ambulance because if they had not taken her back right away our insurance would not have covered it and she would have had to pay for the ride out of her pocket.
fiestygirl fiestygirl 9 years
being an icu nurse, perhaps i can share my insight. first and foremost, heart attacks (i am guessing that they are using this broad term to refer to chest pain) are not the biggest emergencies. it is all about the ABC's. Airway, Breathing, Circulation. So someone who can't breathe or is vomitting up blood compromising airway is going to be seen before any heart attacks. I know all of you think your emergency/pain is the worst, but it isn't. If you heart was in a lethal rhythm, trust me, you would be unconscious and you would be seen right away. however, some legitimate concerns were raised. 1. yes, your wait time is going to be affected by the size of the city and the number of hospitals. as healthcare costs increase, some hospitals are not able to keep up with the competition and are forced to shut down. making fewer hospitals responsible for more people. 2. overcrowded er's are directly related to lack of insurance, forcing many people to come to the er for general care. 3. lack of an emphasis on preventative care (ie smoking cessation hmmmm) causes patients to be "sicker" and often with comorbities.
ellipsery ellipsery 9 years
By the way, I lived in a very small town (Less than 5,000 people) when I had to wait well over an hour for a head injury -- I had been knocked unconscious on the sidewalk, and my mother supposes that I had been knocked out for several hours because I got home from school so late (My father was neglectful and didn't seem to worry when I didn't arrive home from school -- he was supposed to be watching me while my mother was at work). I also threw up and felt very nauseous. Those are signs of a potentially serious injury, and I should have been seen right away. The ER wasn't even that busy. My sister was also sent home from the ER (after waiting about three hours to be seen) when she was deathly ill. They sent her home and said she had the flu or something -- just take some OTC meds, they said. She came home and began hallucinating the next day. She was hospitalized after my mother had scheduled multiple appointments. She had a pneumonia and nearly died. The hospitalization lasted weeks. So much for health care in this country, no matter what size area the hospital is serving.
aem2006 aem2006 9 years
This past summer I was in Myrtle Beach and I dislocated my knee cap making it impossible to walk. I waited four hours for care but that wasn't really what upset me. There was a group of kids probably around my age and they came in with a friend who was stung by some type of creature and the hospital treated her as if it was minor even when she began to convulse and pass out. All they did was give her a blanket. I would rather wait forever then to see some of the severe pain people have to go through :(
jimmalou1978 jimmalou1978 9 years
I've waited 8 hours before; all the druggies go to the ER at night to get their fixes, and that causes extended wait times for the rest of us. The only good thing about the hospital I use is that if you come in with chest pain, they at least take you back and do an EKG to see if it is your heart before seating you in the waiting room. That way, if it is legitimately cardiac related, they can get you treated as soon as possible. Otherwise, you wait in the waiting room, even if you ARE bleeding profusely.
hexentanz hexentanz 9 years
entered at 8pm, left finally at 1pm the next day and was not seen until around 10am, I had a huge ovarian cyst that ruptured.... and I waited even longer for a more serious issue several months later. You can imagine my shock when I was seen right after walking in the door in to a Hospital in Germany over a little tiny cut that required two stitches and even more in shock when I learned this is the normal wait times here.
jewelz1325 jewelz1325 9 years
the one and only time i've had to go to the er so far was when i sprained my wrist in middle school. i was in obvious pain but i still had to wait 4 hrs before anyone saw me. what made it worse was that no one else there seemed like they were in any dire need or anything. i think i'm just bitter because i had to wear a wrist brace for our school field trip (which was the day after i sprained my wrist).
wackdoodle wackdoodle 9 years
I have had to go to the ERs up here in SF fairly frequently for my severe migraines. And perhaps because it's a migraine and they know it could very well be a TIA or more serious stroke I generally get immediate service. When I get injured at work (hit by a car or dislocate my knee while driving the darn bus) again I get treated immediately. When my nephew accidentally stabbed himself in the hand with scissors while trying to open a package and needed stitches he got treatment at the ER immediately. We never go to SF General because we have insurance and we know that that is the city's trauma ward hospital. So all of the other hospitals compete to give you better service at least in my experience. Now in SoCal it's a different story - even at the hopital at my sister is charge nurse at. Same nephew got hit by a car, bought in by ambulance with LOC and out in the general waiting room! This was a private hospital. They knew he had insurance in fact they knew his mom was a charge nurse and that his family physician was chief of staff but still the warehoused him leaving him unconscious, unattended while the paramedics got coffee and the ER doctors finished dinner. That is until my sister came down stairs. Then all hell broke loose. Suddenly the kid and every other ER patient was top priority. Real bad. Not the first time this ER had done this.
renaimarie renaimarie 9 years
I was in a bike accident where I dislocated my pinkie (we thought my hand was broken), broke my two top front teeth in half, and scratched up my entire face. I was a bloody mess when I walked in and they took me almost immediately. It was bizarre... I've waited hours upon hours before. I guess bleeding does have its benefits, heh.
Tangirl1804 Tangirl1804 9 years
When I was in college in CT I got kidney stones my first week of freshmen year! The second time I went to the ER for the pain I ended up waiting 5 hours for a room. Probably THE worst pain I have ever had...and the longest I had to wait.
isobelstevens isobelstevens 9 years
I just moved to the states, and I waited with one of my friends the other day for the cops and fire rescue to come and help him because his car had FLIPPED OVER on a busy street. Literally, flipped over. Luckily and by some miracle he crawled out of the window without a scratch, but the cops took THREE HOURS to get there, as did the fire rescue. So, if that's the cops, I can't imagine hospitals here in Florida!
mefph mefph 9 years
When I lived in NYC, I had to wait 4-6 hours during ER visits. Now I live in a smaller city and my wait to see a doctor is no more than 15-30 minutes.
Nitrobezene Nitrobezene 9 years
All the times I've been to the ER, I've been taken right back. It's great. I'm sooo glad I live in America!
celeblover celeblover 9 years
I live north of dallas and i was having chest pains and numbness of my left arm and i had to wait like 3 hours. It was horrible!
Carri Carri 9 years
I've waited with my brother for 4 hours. He had third degree burns on his foot and leg, which is considered critical!
ellipsery ellipsery 9 years
I waited over an hour after a HEAD INJURY when I was just nine. And people say we shouldn't have national health care because of supposed long waits in the ER (I know there are other reasons, but this is one).
endlessknot endlessknot 9 years
the last time I remember going to the er, i waited for 4 freaking hours! i had an awful migraine that non of my prescriptions would work on, so was waiting to get a shot of demerol.
Greentea1203 Greentea1203 9 years
Last spring I had to go to the ER and they saw me right away. It was pretty great as I was in major pain
cjcwmc cjcwmc 9 years
I live in L.A. and have great insurance, but the one time I went to the emergency room (at Cedars) I waited 8 hours. I was having horrible chest pains too...and there were people brought in by ambulance hooked up to ekg's and oxygen machines that were briefly checked and then taken to wait in the lobby. It was horrible--I was in so much pain and there were people around me vomiting into bins, etc... A neighbor who is a nurse at a hospital later told me that you should never go to an emergency room on a Monday, that it's always packed. Another friend who once waited 10 hours at UCLA Medical Center told me that if you have insurance you should go to urgent care, not the hospital emergency room.
jennifer76 jennifer76 9 years
Wow, and to think I was really upset that I had to sit around for like 30 minutes with my two year old's broken arm. :O I can't believe people have to wait for heart attacks!!
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