Sunday, December 03, 2006

"E Really is for Emergency"

From the Florida Times-Union:

Its waiting rooms and stretchers increasingly filled with complaints that run more toward "I don't feel well" than "I can't breathe," another hospital is cracking down on people who use its ER as a walk-in clinic.

In mid-November, Orange Park Medical Center became the second Northeast Florida emergency room in recent months to ask the least sick of its patients to turn elsewhere for care or face a $100 fee.

Memorial Hospital in Jacksonville started the policy in August. Both facilities are operated by Hospital Corporation of America.

Tom Rounds, Memorial Hospital's director of emergency service, said the policy began in Houston emergency rooms years ago. It started at Memorial Hospital in a pilot program and expanded to Orange Park Medical Center this month to ease overcrowding and make room for seriously ill patients, he said.

"There really is a national push to get ERs back to their original intent," he said.
Of the 5,500 patients who went to Memorial Hospital's ER in October, about 500 were told they would be better off being treated at an urgent care center, a clinic or a doctor's office, according to the hospital. Since mid-November, 236 people at Orange Park Medical Center have fallen into the non-emergency category, hospital statistics show.


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