Patients who needed to be seen in 1 to 14 minutes were having to wait twice that long, according to 2009 figures from the Government Accountability Office, the most recent available.
Although emergency physicians are committed to providing high-quality care as quickly as possible to everyone, crowding and long wait times can jeopardize patient safety. In response some Chicago area hospitals are addressing the problem by expanding their emergency room space.
Congestion was one of the contributing factors that led Rush University Medical Center to expand its emergency facilities.
“Our old emergency department was entirely too small and we could not expand capacity to meet demand,” said Cassandra Sura, public relations specialist.
The new emergency department, the McCormick Foundation Center for Advanced Emergency Response, opened last year. There are now 60 ER beds, an increase from the 34 it had. Additionally, the maximum power that can be provided over a short time, or surge capacity, is 133 percent.
The department was designed to provide an unprecedented level of readiness for large-scale health emergencies ranging from a mass outbreak of an infectious disease to a bio-terrorist attack, according to Sura.
“Rush took the opportunity to create a new kind of emergency department for the future,” she said.
Overall, there are 692 emergency stations in Chicago hospitals, according to Melaney Arnold, spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Public Health.
A station, which is equated to a bed, is the area where the doctor and other clinical staff evaluate the patient.
Presence Saint Joseph Hospital, which has a high need for fast track care, found expansion was necessary, as well.
The previous ER, which was built in 1983, had four small rooms and 10 treatment bays. The new ER opened this past October and has three triage rooms, seven private treatment rooms and five treatment bays.
The ER was phase one of the renovation. The completion of the second phase, which is scheduled for June of this year, will incorporate additional examine rooms, a chest pain center and support spaces.
Although the old emergency room was among the nation’s top 25 percent on a number of measures, the new ER patient ratings are even higher, according to the hospital’s CEO, Roberta Luskin-Hawk.
“Now we have an environment of care that matches our quality of care,” she said.
And with a door-to-doc time of less than 20 minutes, patient satisfaction across the board is better than ever, according to Luskin-Hawk.