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Patients, doctors weigh in on long wait times at local emergency - KRISTV.com | Continuous News Coverage | Corpus Christi

Patients, doctors weigh in on long wait times at local emergency rooms

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CORPUS CHRISTI -

Medical emergencies can strike anytime, and anywhere.

They often result in a trip to the emergency room, and depending on your condition, can add up to a long wait.

Sandra Manning, who has visited the emergency room on more than one occasion, said she is all too familiar with the extensive process.

"When you get there you just have to wait," Manning said. "I mean, no matter if it's an emergency or not...you're waiting...hours."

But a trip to the ER is often unplanned, and it can be difficult--if not impossible--to determine how long you may be waiting.

Pro Publica's online ER Wait Watcher tool aggregates data on emergency room wait times from the federal government and posts it online.

But the data is self-reported by the respective hospital or hospital groups, and several medical professionals dispute its accuracy.

As of Sunday afternoon, the site listed the wait time at Corpus Christi Medical Center as an average of 13 minutes; the site states that the average ER wait time in Texas in 25 minutes.

For Christus Spohn Hospital, the ER Wait Watcher tool listed a an average wait time of 41 minutes, nearly double the purported state average.

But people coming and going from one local emergency room noted that those numbers seemed suspiciously low.

Adam Sedillo works at a local halfway house for people with drug and alcohol addictions.

He frequently takes residents to the emergency room for various ailments.

"We had a guy here stay like 8 hours yesterday," Sedillo said as he stood outside of Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital. "We had to leave him here and then come back to get him this morning."

Sedillo told us the patient in question had been diagnosed with the flu.

Another patient, Michelle Willard, pointed out that she has had 54 surgeries including a procedure on her brain.

She said she is often in and out of emergency rooms.

"I know how long it takes," Willard said. "It takes even longer than seven hours."

Another woman who happened to be walking by the emergency room told us that she has waited until late at night or early in the morning to visit the ER to avoid crowds and long wait times.

A group of local emergency room doctors agreed that wait times can be extremely long, but saw that as an opportunity to provide a service that previously didn't exist in Corpus Christi.

Dr. David Kenyon is among a group of physicians who started Physicians Premier last year.

"There's a lot more demand out there for medical services than there are supply," Dr. Kenyon said. "The system tends to be over-burdened--too many patients at one time and not enough staff to take care of them--and not enough places."

Dr. Kenyon has practiced emergency medicine in the Coastal Bend for the past 12 years.

When asked to speculate as to why our emergency rooms get so crowded, he pointed to skyrocketing cases of diabetes.

Approximately 86,000 people are suffering from diabetes or pre-diabetes according to the Texas A&M Health Science Center.

Complications of the disease, if unchecked, can frequently land someone in the ER.

Dr. Martin Grieme, a partner at Physicians Premier, said that providing good care in an overwhelmed emergency department can be difficult.

"That was one of the frustrating things with local hospitals," Dr. Grieme said. "It gets bogged down, and you're not able to get the patients in and out."

Freestanding emergency rooms have popped up across the country, and Physicians Premier is the first one to open in Corpus Christi.

It offers many of the services a traditional emergency room does--a lab, X-Ray equipment, a CAT scan machine--but is not attached to or affiliated with a hospital.

They do not accept Medicare or Medicaid patients and do not take traffic from ambulances, but have managed to keep average wait times to about 12 minutes.

Both Christus Spohn and Corpus Christi Medical center declined to do an on-camera interview for this story.

Communications spokesperson Katy Kiser of Spohn issued a prepared statement, which reads in part: "We are passionate about transforming the delivery of care in this region. The new Hector P. Garcia Memorial Health Center, which is part of our new project involving the Shoreline and Memorial campuses, will offer expanded access and a coordination of care to the Coastal Bend. This health center will include 7-day-a-week clinic hours, services such as X-ray, labs and pharmacy."

Corpus Christi Medical Center posts approximate emergency room wait times on their website.

Their spokesperson, Lisa Robertson wrote in part, "Corpus Christi Medical Center wants the people in the community to receive quality care as quickly as possible. The idea behind posting Corpus Christi Medical Center's ED Wait Times is to help the consumer make an informed decision about where they want to get care. It helps the hospital focus on quality customer service and makes the facilities the hospital of choice when people need us most."

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