Today’s Final Jeopardy Answer is: “Computers, television, and sleep.”
And the Question is…
“What are three things that become unimportant when you take your child to the Emergency Room?”
Last night, after we returned home from dining out, our son took a tumble and split his upper lip pretty good. This was at approximately 9:45pm, and we arrived at the hospital probably a half-hour later, and took him to the pediatric ER (which was separate from the regular ER). The place was swamped. Around 11:00pm, they finally got around to taking his vitals. At midnight, we asked one of the overworked nurses how many people were ahead of us. She told us “Ten. You’re going to be here for a while.” “Is it always like this?” we asked, “On weekends, yes,” she replied.
Around 2:00am, we again asked what our status was. “Seven ahead of you.” We asked why things were proceeding so slowly, and she told us that after midnight, they only have one doctor on staff. In addition, she told us that they then only have a few examination rooms, and they were not allowed to move children out of the pediatric ER exam rooms into another area, which is another reason that things were slow. Even though one child may not need constant observation (say, while waiting for a local anesthetic to take affect), they would still tie up an exam room, so the doctor couldn’t examine a new patient until another one was done with treatment and vacated a room. And to top things off, some of the parents had brought their children into the ER for things that should/could have been taken care of earlier in the day at a regular pediatrician’s office.
We were dumbfounded. We recognized that it wasn’t the fault of the doctors and nurses there (who were all very nice, and working hard), but suggested that we might write a letter to the hospital’s administration. “Please do,” she suggested. “They won’t listen to us. The only way it will change is if enough people complain.”
While we waited, several people ahead of us simply gave up, and asked the desk clerk to cancel them from the waiting list. Sometime later (I’m fuzzy now on exactly when), the nurse we had been talking to finally called us back into an exam room. The doctor examined Jamie’s lip, and applied a topical anesthetic (which required us to wait another 45 minutes while it numbed the injured area). Finally, she returned and gave Jamie three stitches. He was very brave through the whole thing, bless his heart.
We finally left the hospital around 6:00am, or thereabouts. We stopped on the way home to get him some Children’s Tylenol, then drove through McDonald’s to get breakfast for the whole family, and finally arrived home somwhere between 6:30 and 7:00am. At which point Susan and I had been awake for more than 24 hours.
The staff of Kennestone Hospital gets an “A” for their friendly and professional work. The administration gets an “F” for not providing the resources needed to efficiently handle patients in a timely fashion. Two things need to change. First, the staff needs to have authority to move patients into other hospital rooms when they are waiting for medications to take affect, x-ray results, and such. Second, they need to have more than one doctor on staff in the Children’s ER throughout the night. They could probably process two or three times as many patients per night very easily, with minimal additional resources.