I had to take my MIL to the ER last night. She had a severe heart attack about two weeks ago and has been recovering at home. Yesterday, she had such difficulty breathing that she called her cardiologist and he told her to go to the ER for a chest X-ray. Easy, right? Huh, huh. I picked her up about 6:30 and we were in the ER by 7:00. We checked in and sat down amid twenty other colorful characters in the waiting area :-o) They called us back and asked her a gazillion questions before finally taking her to a room. Once in that room, a nurse came in and did his thing and left us to wait for the ER doc.
This is the part where things started to go blurry for me. About an hour and a half later, the doctor popped into the room, spent five minutes asking questions and listening to her lungs, and popped out again. The nurse came back in, took some blood (lots of it actually), gave her some lasix, and out he went. A little more than an hour later, the doctor popped back in again, said she had some fluid build up on her lungs, that he needed to consult with the cardiologist on call, and that most likely, she'd be spending the night. Out he went and we were left to sit for another hour before the nurse popped in to "see if we needed anything." At this point, we were four hours into our ER adventure, neither of us had eaten supper, and the ER was getting busier by the minute. I could see patients being placed on cots in the hallway. As a matter of fact, there were two patients outside our door. I assume they were waiting to get into the room we were occupying. An hour and a half later, the nurse pops in to tell us he's doing paperwork to get my MIL a room. I failed to mention that during this 5 1/2 hour confinement, we witnessed a couple brawling in the waiting area, a two-year old having seizures next door, and a man with facial fractures decided the ER staff was taking too long and he was leaving AMA. Oooookkkkkaaaaaayyy! A wonderful way to spend a Friday night.
Here's my question, and my complaint. What in the name of all that is good and holy are they doing during that 5 1/2 hour time frame? I know they are working and that there are multiple patients to deal with. I fully understand that and I am thankful for modern medicine. I do question the efficiency of an emergency room though. Do they only staff it with one doctor? Why do they not have shared records with other departments in the hospital? For example, in the rush to get to the ER, my MIL forgot to pick up her meds. When we got to triage and they asked what meds she took, she couldn't tell them because many of them are meds she started since her heart attack. She didn't have them all memorized yet :-o) This is the same hospital that she was in two weeks ago. Why were they not able to pull up her records and see that for themselves?
My FIL goes to a local VA hospital (for veterans). He has a patient number and anytime he goes for a visit, whether it be a routine visit or a visit to their ER, he gives them his patient number and they are able to electronically pull up all of his records. They can tell everything from this. If it's been a while since he's been there, they just ask him questions and update it. This seems like a no-brainer. So why in the world doesn't our local hospital have this same set-up? I really need to understand this because these are the types of things that bug me and make me never want to go to the doctor. I also need to mention another situation that I noted. When the nurse came in to draw blood, he ended up having to leave to get supplies to do so. What is up with that? Why are these rooms not better stocked? This is where we go for emergencies. Shouldn't they be prepared for emergencies? To me, being prepared means having everything you might need right there in the room. They have a whole set of cabinets and drawers dedicated for supplies. Why were they not there last night?
I truly want to understand these things. I don't expect perfection but I do expect hospitals to have it together. I expect them to have the things they need to work with right there. When I see things like I saw last night, it makes me fearful of ever having to go to the ER. I see the ER nurses running around like mad trying to take care of multiple patients and I wonder how they keep it all together. I guess what bothers me is that I see so much potential for error in situations like this. Unnecessary errors. Somebody please help me understand. Am I just being unreasonable?