January 7, 2009

Kids Fail To Get ER Care

An alarming study finds some children never receive emergency care due to long lines that force parents and guardians to leave.

The report found about 2 percent of U.S. children who visit an emergency department leave before they are seen.

"Emergency department crowding has become a national crisis," Dr. Florence T. Bourgeois, of Harvard Medical School, Boston, and colleagues point out in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

"One of the most significant consequences of emergency department crowding occurs when long waits and patient dissatisfaction lead to patients leaving before they have seen a clinician."

Bourgeois' team found the "leave-without-being-seen" rates among children appeared to increase between 2000 and 2005. Yet, they say it could be blamed on statistical errors.

Urban location, self-pay insurance status, and less acute triage level are all reasons why both children and adults leave ER care without treatment.

For children, race or ethnicity did not affect how long they had to wait and whether or not they left.

However, researchers found those who arrived between 4 p.m. and midnight were more likely to leave without being seen.


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