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Overcrowding may put emergency department patients at risk

Several TV shows have dramatized the lives of emergency department personnel. Although each show had its unique story lines, the element common to all was stress, and for good reason: emergency department staff is required to respond to any emergency that comes through the door.

Unfortunately, a recently published study suggests that the quality of emergency department care to patients in Connecticut and nationwide may be at risk due to overcrowding. For ER departments with limited staff and resources, the additional strain of overcrowding may put patients at greater risk for injuries caused by medical professional negligence.

The study found that the number of emergency department visits nationwide increased by 15% from 2001 to 2008, outpacing the country's population growth by 60%. The length of time spent by patients in emergency departments also rose by nearly 30% in the same period. Taken together, the data suggests that America's emergency rooms may be suffering from severe overcrowding.

According to researchers, the biggest contributor to the overcrowding and delays may be the increasingly sophisticated care administered to emergency patients upon their arrival. Emergency physicians cite several reasons for administering increasingly complex tests, including evolving standards of practice, medical liability concerns and more demanding patients. Unfortunately, the tests and procedures may be overtaxing the nation's emergency departments.

If you received additional injuries because of the care you received in an emergency room, an attorney can review your case to determine whether the hospital staff may be held accountable. In such event, you may be able to recover compensation by bringing a medical malpractice claim.

Source: American Medical News, "Rise in ED crowding tied to sicker patients needing more tests," Kevin B. O'Reilly, July 9, 2012

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