Heavy patient volumes can cause long waits at hospital
KINGMAN – Influenza season from October into April normally produces the heaviest volume of patients visiting Kingman Regional Medical Center’s emergency room.
However, that is not to say there may not be waiting times for walk-in patients or in getting a bed assignment for admission.
“We’re monitoring everyone that goes over two hours for admission,” said Larry Lewis, chief operating and financial officer at KRMC. “We’d like the waiting time to be 15-30 minutes and are trying to ensure that once someone is discharged, that room is quickly turned around and the bed made available.” Lewis could not say how often the emergency room is full.
There are times when 18 beds there may be occupied, as ER personnel do workups and evaluations.
If a decision is made to admit five or six of those patients within minutes of one another, it likely would take longer to get them all up to a room on the second or third floor.
“It takes at least an hour for a patient assessment up on the floors, so we must make sure patients are in the right location and rooms,” Lewis said. “It’s imperative that someone upstairs can assess the patient immediately upon arrival there so there’s no loss in the continuity of care. When there are many assessments going on upstairs, it simply is better to keep the patient in the emergency room until those assessments are finished.”
It’s impossible to say if one day of the week is better or worse than another as far as patient volumes in the emergency room. But greater numbers of people tend to visit in the winter, which is flu season, he said.
The two-hour waiting time to be transferred from the emergency room to a bed on one of the floors is the same goal hospital personnel strive for in seeing walk-in patients in the ER.
A patient waiting more than two hours has his or her name put on a list and the nursing supervisor is notified of it. If the numbers grow to “several” waiting beyond two hours, the chief nursing officer is notified and additional resources allocated to deal with the patient load, Lewis said.
“As far as the frequency of when that may happen, it’s tough to measure when five or six may be waiting more than two hours,” he said.
Emergency room waiting times nationwide average four hours to undergo testing and screening for admission or discharge, Lewis said. If the person is ill enough to be admitted, that time climbs to six hours.
How do KRMC personnel deal with people who feel they are being kept waiting too long and are bordering on irate?
“We’re looking at different things,” Lewis said.
“We try to provide them with magazines and explain ambulances are coming in with severe patients. We also try to provide coffee and in some cases meals where appropriate.”
The hospital also is in the process of acquiring televisions to be placed in treatment rooms within the ER to help pass the time for those patients awaiting evaluation or transfer to a private room after admission.
In addition, the emergency department is looking at new triage protocols that would permit patient testing to begin sooner through a series of standing order tests once a condition is determined.