Wednesday, August 20, 2008

How Long Until I Get A Bed?

I admitted a patient to the hospital a few days ago. She was a nice (young) lady of 54 who had taken a popular prescription sleeping medication along with her usual Vodka tonic nightcap. She remembers deciding to take shower before bed at approximately 8:30 p.m. Her next memory is meeting me at 11:00 p.m.

Her son dropped by the house on his way home just to check on her. She had been under quite a bit of stress at work, and he was concerned about her. She did not answer the doorbell, so he let himself in with his key. He discovered her lying unconscious in the bathroom, her head surrounded by a pool of blood.

When the ambulance arrived, she was awake and tearful. She had a large, deep laceration across her forehead. She arrived in my emergency department in much the same condition. While this makes a dramatic tale, it is hardly unusual. About 15% of our weekend patients present because of falls, many involving alcohol, drugs, or both.

The reason that I’m writing about this patient today is that I left a note with the unit coordinator, asking that I be paged when the patient received an inpatient bed assignment. I just received that page.

SEVENTY-TWO HOURS AFTER ARRIVAL, THE PATIENT GETS A BED!

All over the country patients and physicians face this same challenge. There are simply not enough resources to take care of the patients that come to the emergency department on a routine basis. How can we hope to be prepared for the coming flu season……or worse?

2 comments:

Dr. Val said...

Good point. I was working at a downtown hospital in NYC during 9/11... ever since I've been keenly aware of our woefully inadequate "disaster preparedness." As you say, we're having a hard time keeping up with the current demands.

Kim said...

Wow - I guess I'll appreciate my facility a little more; we just hold some patients until the next shift - maybe 3 hours max.

It's a medium-sized community hospital and I am beginning to think we are an anomaly when it comes to getting our patients admitted!

I can't even imagine the level of frustration of staff and patients with wait times that long.