Psych patients overwhelm hospital ERs

Almost half (46 percent) of healthcare leaders say their emergency department (ED) is overcrowded. And according to a study in the Annals of Emergency Medicine, the backlog could be attributed to psychiatric patients, who are stuck waiting in the ED for more than 11 hours before being treated or released. 

"ER wait times are often a function of how many people are in your waiting room, and how many available beds you have," George Bussey, chief medical officer of Denver's HealthOne hospital system, told Kaiser Health News and Colorado Public Radio. "And if you have, for example, a 30-bed emergency department but you have five patients who aren't being moved out of beds, you've effectively turned yourself into a 25-bed emergency department, at which point you begin to get the back up."

With a shortage of psychiatric beds and outpatient service cuts, patients with a psychotic diagnosis are flocking to hospital emergency departments all over California, as well, reported The Modesto Bee. More ED workers are assigned to work with the growing numbers of psychiatric patients, leaving people with traditional emergency medical issues with longer waiting times.

To ease the burden on hospital EDs and speed up emergency services, HealthOne is opening a new 40-bed psychiatric ward, noted KHN and CPR.

For more information:
- here's the study abstract
- read the KHN and CPR article
- check out the Modesto Bee article