Official says hospital keeping up with demand

While hospitals in metropolitan areas are seeking relief from the state in dealing with overcrowding in emergency rooms, Kingman Regional Medical Center is keeping up with the demands for services, according to Brian Turney, chief executive officer of KRMC.

"We're not involved with that request but certainly we have struggled at certain times this winter," Turney said.

"We think we're doing better than hospitals in Phoenix and Tucson, but we still face significant challenges."

Visits to the emergency room at KRMC have risen 7.3 percent over the last six months to an average of over 2,000 visits per month, Turney said.

In December alone, more than 2,200 people visited the ER, he said.

A recent Associated Press story said the 27 hospitals and five trauma centers in metropolitan Phoenix closed for a total of 1,697 hours during December.

That was more than double the downtime of a year earlier.

Dr.

Rudd Taylor of Good Samaritan Medical Center's ER said three or four years ago the average waiting time for a walk-in patient in his ER was 30-45 minutes.

Now it's six to eight hours, he said.

"Our average time for a treat-and-release in ER is one hour and 45 minutes," Turney said.

"But during the New Year's holiday we had waits of six to seven hours.

"Admission times with waits are now three to four hours.

Ideally, we'd like them to be two to three hours."

Construction at KRMC will add another 70 patient beds on the second and third floor additions to the north side of the hospital and should help facilitate admissions, Turney said.

The "bed tower" should be ready to open in the fall, he said.

The big challenge will be getting the extra nurses to staff it, he said.

Turney said the hospital tries to increase staffing at key times when patient traffic escalates.

But finding nurses to call in during the winter is not easy, he said.

"One other problem we face locally is people in need of psychiatric care coming into the ER," Turney said.

"There isn't a good system in this state to take care of people with substance abuse or psychiatric needs, and they can clog up an ER."

In addition, ERs must deal with two other types of patients, according to the AP story.

One type fails to get timely appointments in a doctor's office due to overcrowding in them.

In hopes of faster treatment, they go to an ER, adding to the congestion.

The second type patient has no insurance.

But Arizona law requires an ER to conduct a medical screening and render minimum care necessary to stabilize the patient.

Turney said roughly 18 percent of patients who visit the ER at KRMC have no insurance.

Fortunately, patients at KRMC seldom are diverted to other medical facilities.

The few that are diverted are because no bed is available, Turney said.

"One thing that has changed is we've closed our sub-acute care unit and reallocated its 14 beds for acute care," Turney said.

"Sub-acute care is for skilled nursing patients and The Gardens Care Center offers that service, so we were able to close ours."

Phoenix Republican Sen.

Susan Gerard heads the states Senate Health Committee.

She is listening to suggestions from doctors, paramedics, hospitals and ambulance companies on how to improve service to the public.

Among the suggestions being studied are: divert patients with serious but non-critical problems to urgent care centers; urge doctors to keep their offices open later in the day and on weekends; and seek ways to hasten hospital reimbursement for care so more money is available to support or expand existing facilities.

"It's a very complex issue," said Debbi Wells, health policy adviser to Gov.

Jane Hull.

Cathy Eden, the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, offered a similar view.

"Have you noticed there are no solutions nationally, either?" Eden said.