Why do trips to the emergency room take so long?

Lets face it….. We’ve all been there, whether it’s for ourselves, a friend, a loved one, a stranger. Sitting in the waiting room of the emergency room, frustrated as time seems to stand still and… hang on! I’m sure I was here before that guy who’s now going through to be seen?

So this piece is an attempt to answer two burning questions about after hours medical care. Why does it take so long to be seen at the emergency department? And why are some people seen before others in the queue?

These questions actually have a simple answer and while the answer probably won’t make you feel any better you’ll be pleased to know that there is a solution to the problem.

In answer to both questions,  emergency rooms are designed, and staffed, to cater for emergencies. Now it is unfair for the man on the street to understand fully what an emergency is because let’s be honest, when it’s your health problem, it will always feels like an emergency. To ensure that emergency rooms fulfill their primary mandate of treating emergencies, they stratify patients, known as triage, into risk groups, based on when they need care:

  1. Immediate (life threatening)
  2. Emergency (could become life-threatening)
  3. Urgent (not life-threatening)
  4. Semi-urgent
  5. Non-urgent (needs treatment when time permits).

Your triage score, determines that those who are sicker or in need of care more urgently, get that care before those who are less sick or in need of less urgent care.

The next factor, which compounds the frustration of long waiting times is the fact that the higher the triage level, the more complex and resource intensive it tends to be to treat such patients.

So in summary, as a patient with a lower triage score you are being treated after more serious patients and treating those patients takes longer due to the nature of their health problem.

Now, the reason long waiting times at casualty affects so many people is because up to 2/3 of patients attending casualty have problems that are semi-urgent or non-urgent. It is this reason that makes NiteDoc the place for you to go if after-hours healthcare issues arise.

We pride ourselves on being the solution to the problem you face in receiving after hours health care.

Our doctors are able to treat your healthcare problems in the same way as your GP in a personalized manner that will give you peace of mind about your after hours health care needs. And remember, if your problem requires more serious intervention, we are able to refer you for that care.

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