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If you have ever needed emergency room care at night or on a weekend, you know that Illinois emergency rooms are often crowded with long wait times. A recent study has found that the quality of care may also suffer during these times. Patients who are admitted to the hospital when the emergency room is overcrowded have a higher risk of death than patients admitted when the emergency department is less busy.

Doctors at the Oregon Health & Science University examined the nearly 1,000,000 hospital admissions of patients who were admitted through emergency department at 187 California hospitals during 2007. They used ambulance diversion, the practice of sending an ambulance to a different hospital because the emergency room is too crowded, as an indicator that the emergency room was over capacity. Twenty percent of the admissions happened on days when ambulances were diverted from that hospital; 80 percent of admissions occurred when the hospital was accepting all ambulances.

The researchers found that 3.9 percent of patients who were admitted on overcrowded days ended up dying in the hospital. Only 3.6 percent of admitted patients died on the days that the hospital was not overcrowded. This is a difference of 0.3 percent or three extra deaths per 1,000 patients.

This may not seem like a significant difference, but when the researchers took into account the severity of the injury or illness, they found that a seriously ill or injured patient who is admitted when the ER is overcrowded is five percent more likely to die while in the hospital. This is a significant difference! Over one year, three hundred patients died as a result of emergency room overcrowding.

The research was modeled after an earlier study that found that as many as three percent of heart attack patients die unnecessarily when emergency rooms are crowded.

When you have a medical emergency, every second counts. Delays in care can mean permanent disability or even death if a patient has a serious condition like a heart attack, stroke, or brain injury.

If your loved one suffered injury or death due to emergency room delays, your family deserves accountability. Contact our Rockford personal injury attorneys to learn how an Illinois medical malpractice claim can help your family get justice and compensation. To schedule a free consultation with a Rockford medical malpractice lawyer, contact Hupy and Abraham at 800-800-5678.

Jason F. Abraham
Managing Partner, Hupy and Abraham
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