Patients complain about long ER waits

July 28, 2009 9:28:46 PM PDT
Several patients at Cape Fear Valley Medical Center are complaining the wait could be more than 12 hours.Doctors said patients are seen as quickly as possible based on medical needs.

Daryl Penn and his wife said they spent 18 hours Monday in the emergency room at Cape Fear Valley.

While there, they said a pregnant woman was bleeding and it was difficult to get help. They said they also saw a snake bite victim who waited hours before being treated.

"He was bitten by a copperhead four times," Jillian Plumley-Penn said. "He was out in the waiting room for three hours. People were going up to them saying, 'you guys got to do something, he's convulsing out here.' The receptionist lady said well everybody here's an emergency."

The hospital staff admitted the ER was packed Monday and administrators were checking the allegations about the pregnant woman and snake bite victim.

But doctors said there is several reasons there could be hours of waiting.

"While ambulances roll in, we see trauma victims, gunshot victims, heart attacks," Emergency Services Medical Director Dr. John Reed said. "Those kind of things by necessity we have to prioritize."

Officials said Cape Fear's emergency room treats about 130,000 patients a year, making it one of the busiest in the state.

The hospital has opened three urgent care centers -where the wait is normally shorter- to treat sprains, strains and sore throats.

Emergency rooms are required by law to see anyone who seeks emergency care. But Dr. Reed said not every case is an emergency that has to be seen right away.

"Things you should really come to the emergency department for legitimately are chest pains, shortness of breath, change in consciousness, severe abdominal pains, trouble breathing, those kinds of things," Reed said.


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