ER Workers Says Patient Safety At Risk

Problems at hospital emergency rooms are <"">putting patients at risk, according to a new study published in the December 2008 issue of The Annals of Emergency Medicine.  The study, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), was the first to closely examine safety from the perspective of emergency department doctors and nurses.

According to an AHRQ press release, the study was conducted by a team of researchers with the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research, the University of Colorado Health Science Center; Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Yale School of Public Health, Yale School of Medicine; Weill Medical College of Cornell University and New York-Presbyterian Hospital.

For the study, researchers surveyed 3,562 emergency medicine clinicians in 65 hospitals to examine their perceptions about their emergency department’s safety. At all of the hospitals surveyed, respondents reported problems with the safety of emergency care systems.  According to the survey:

  • Nearly two-thirds of emergency department clinicians reported that they have insufficient space to deliver patient care.
  • One third indicated the number of patients consistently exceeds their emergency department’s capacity to provide safe care.
  • Forty percent reported physician staffing is insufficient to handle patient loads during busy periods.
  • Two-thirds reported nursing staff is insufficient to handle patient loads during busy periods.
  • Only a third of respondents reported that patients in their emergency department’s waiting rooms are monitored often.

“This is a national problem,”  lead author David Magid, M.D., senior scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Colorado Institute for Health Research and director for research at the Colorado Permanente Medical Group, said in the press release.. “It doesn’t matter if the hospital is big or small, an academic or community-based institution, or the region of the country.”

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