Our crowded hospital emergency rooms are a result of several things. Many believe it is due to uninsured patients who don't have primary doctors. However, an editorial in the May 30, 2008 USA Today states that "according to the National Center for Health Statistics, less than 14% of ER patients come for non-urgent needs, while 70% require immediate or non-urgent care."
According to these statistics, the overcowding cannot be blamed on patients without physicians who are uninsured. Part of the problem is that we have fewer and fewer primary doctors, because there is such a discrepancy in income for these doctors as opposed to that of many other physicians. One problem which I have not seen discussed is that many physicians these days direct patients, who call after-hours, to an ER rather than seeing them in their offices, as many of us did in the past.
With the decreasing amount of money going to hospitals, many are closing their doors to new patients. Recently, a physician told me that a man had a rupture of a major blood vessel and even though he had good insurance, the ambulance took him from a large Los Angeles hospital, checked with eleven other hospitals for possible admission, and finally had him accepted at Sharp Memorial Hospital in San Diego. I am amazed that the man didn't die on the way.
Our health care system is badly broken. Yet insurance companies, health care companies and their stockholders, and many hospital CEO's are making enormous amounts of money. Decisions about your health and mine are made in the boardroom, not at the bedside, as it was in the past. Something has to change.