Longer ER wait times may be due to increase in patients

By: Jason Tarr Email
By: Jason Tarr Email

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WICHITA, Kan. -- While riding a bus in Wichita over the weekend, Sania Chuhdary and her friend felt a jolt.

"I just felt like somebody picked me up off my seat and threw me," Chuhdary said.

The bus and a car had collided. When she fell, Sania hit her head. Her friend also had fallen and hit her head and had a broken tooth. They say they went to the emergency department at Via Christi on St. Joseph but say they sat for three hours before being put into a treatment room.

"We were waiting, waiting, waiting and there was no one there to treat us," Chuhdary said. "I asked them again and again to please do something."

She says when they were finally treated and released, they had been there for almost 10 hours. During that time, she says they answered the same questions repeatedly and were told there had been a delay when a mistake had been made on their chart.

Chuhdary is one of several people who have written KAKE News to say they have experienced long waits in the past few weeks at local emergency departments.

Representatives with Via Christi say they can't comment on any individual case but say those kinds of waits are the exception not the rule.

"Our average, time to see a physician is between 18 and 22 minutes," said Joseph Akif, Director of Nursing for Emergency Medicine. "The overall length of stay is about three hours."

He says that three hour average is on par with the national average of three hour total stay.

Akif says the implementation of Via Christi's new digital documentation system June 1 may have contributed to some delays in its first week online but he says that should no longer be the case. He says wait times have dropped in the weeks since.

"Those times have come down significantly and we are very close to being back where we were May 31st," Akif said.

Akif says a bigger reason for the delays may be the six percent increase in the number of patients they are seeing this year.

Leaders with Wesley Medical Center say they are also seeing a six percent year-over-year increase in patients visiting the emergency department. They say that has caused some longer wait times in their ER's as well.

"This year we have had outbreaks in the community that have taxed all the facilities in the Wichita area," said Jeremy Pauly, Director of Emergency Departments for Wesley Medical Center.

He says that has caused their average wait time to see a doctor or mid-level provider to rise to about 38 minutes at their main campus, Pauly said. At the west campus the average is 18 minutes and at Galicia it is 12 minutes.

"Our goal is get significantly down from that and we are working hard every day on our processes to get our patients to be seen quicker," said Bill Voloch, Chief Operating Officer for Wesley Medical Center.

Wesley and Via Christi say when someone comes into the emergency department they almost immediately meet with a triage nurse who assesses their situation and prioritizes patients based on their acuity.

They say wait times can vary after that depending on the day and time and the number of patients waiting for care. Wesley sees an average of four to 14 patients an hour.

"It can depend on how many people are in the unit currently and how many people arrive prior to your arrival or at the same time as your arrival," Pauly said. "When you get 10, 15, 18 people in one hour that you are trying to service through your emergency room it becomes very tricky as far as efficiencies and getting through in a very efficient manner."

People with non-life threatening conditions will wait longer than those who may be in need of critical care, Pauly said.

That's why leaders at both Wesley and Via Christi say to think hard about whether a visit to the emergency room is necessary for your condition.

"If it is something you can do with your primary care physician or urgent care, just keep that in mind that those are probably the best places to get your care," Akif said. "But the emergency department is always available to you and we are always here to take care of you."

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