Saturday, July 26, 2008 | At Scripps Mercy Hospital’s emergency room in Hillcrest, doctors see an average of 2.2 patients an hour with everything from gunshot wounds and drug overdoses to urinary tract infections and sore throats.
Dr. Valerie Norton knows that life well. She served as medical director of emergency services at Scripps Mercy for three years until this month, when another doctor rotated into the position. A 17-year veteran of emergency medicine, she remains on duty and spoke with voiceofsandiego.org about the changing world of the E.R., the effects of the health-care crisis and the waiting room.
How is the crisis in the health-care system being reflected in the E.R?
We have fewer hospitals, fewer hospital beds, fewer emergency departments and a severe nursing shortage.
In San Diego County alone, five hospitals have closed in the last 10-15 years, and this is reflected across the country. But the population is increasing. You have a smaller number of emergency-room beds and upstairs hospital beds to serve an increasing population of people.
This means you can’t get people into the EDs (emergency departments), so they sit in the waiting room for hours and hours. Where 15 years ago you maybe had an average one-hour wait to get seen in this ER, on a busy day now it might be 4-5 hours or even longer.