It is estimated that more than 3,700 people with first-degree injuries each year are stuck in emergency units for two days before they are transferred to inpatient beds in hospitals, the Taiwan Health Reform Foundation said yesterday.
That figure is five times the time needed for an Australian hospital to make the same transfer, the foundation said.
“After cross-analyzing national emergency room monitoring data and National Health Insurance statistics, the foundation discovered three vital concerns stemming from the constant overcrowding in the emergency departments of most of the nation’s hospitals,” foundation chairperson Liu Mei-chun (劉梅君) told a press conference in Taipei.
Liu said the first problem was delays in getting inpatient beds, citing the foundation’s recent monitoring of 19 medical institutions between April 1 and Tuesday.
The survey found that the total number of patients kept waiting in emergency rooms and unable to transfer to an inpatient bed or waiting for admission to an intensive care unit (ICU) was 818 and 32 respectively.
Only 48 people in these cases were actually waiting to see an emergency room physician on average, Liu said.
Liu said the second problem is that patients with first-degree injuries are more likely to be stuck in emergency departments for more than two days than those with less serious conditions.
Emergency room patients are categorized into five degrees based on the severity of their conditions or injuries, with one being the most serious.
In 2012, 5.4 percent, or 3,742, of people with first-degree injuries waited more than 48 hours to be transferred to an inpatient bed, compared with 4 percent for those with second-degree injuries and 1.7 percent for those with third-degree ones, she said.
“It is worth noting that in Australia, it only takes about 9.5 hours for people with the same level of injuries to get a hospital bed,” she added.
Third problem is about 30 percent of patients who required ICU care could not get transferred within six hours, increasing their mortality rate from 8.4 percent to 10.7 percent and lengthening their average hospital stay, she said.
Foundation CEO Joanne Liu (劉淑瓊) said all three problems could be traced back to one factor: hospitals’ preference to treat patients with minor conditions due to staff shortages or those requiring expensive surgeries because they bring in more revenue.
She urged the government to include medical institutions’ ability to clear out patients with first-degree injuries in one day and admitting patients into ICUs within six hours into their routine evaluation.
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