Crowded ER's; Hospitals Cope with Construction

It's that time of year. People slip and fall, catch a cold or fight off the flu.

And in the last few weeks, Madison area emergency rooms have become extremely busy.

St. Marys Emergency Physician, Dr. Steven Jacobson, says, "All of the hospitals are feeling the pressure in the emergency departments. It's not uncommon for one or the other or all hospitals to be closed to ambulances or have to divert because they're so busy they can't take any more patients."

The flu season is not all to blame. The population is growing while also getting older.

"They're more complicated, they have more medical problems," says Dr. Jacobson, "It takes a little longer to sort through what the problem is here in the emergency department."

Mae Knowles of Meriter Hospital says, "In addition, all three hospitals are in the process of various construction projects because we know that due to a growing population and also an aging population that we do need additional hospital beds."

Meriter is building a 100,000 sq. ft. addition.

And both UW and St. Marys plan to expand their ERs.

Right now, Meriter has the most ER beds, at 21. UW has 19 and St. Marys has 16. But next month their number will go up to 21.

Both Meriter and St. Marys officials say in the last month alone, their ERs have seen about 10 more people every day than they anticipated in their budget.

"We understand its frustrating for people to come in with minor problems and have to wait so long," says Dr. Jacobson, "So we're trying to build that minor emergency area so they can be seen more quickly and efficiently."

But until then, all hospitals remind patients to be patient.

"The good news is we all have great emergency rooms that have great systems in place to triage people and see them in the order of medical need," says Knowles.

ER doctors also say check with your primary physician to see if your condition should be treated at the emergency room.

And bring something to do. If it's just the flu you may have to wait a little longer to get in.

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