United Regional Sees Spike In Emergency Room Visits

The crowded situation and long waiting time at the Emergency Room at United Regional is not just a seasonal thing this year because of the flu bug, it's a big trend that has hospital officials worried it will continue in years ahead.

Since 2007 they've seen a 20 percent increase in their services.

It's a place many people would prefer to avoid.

But in the past year United Regional's Emergency Room saw 82 thousand patients.

That's a substantial increase since 2007 when they had 65 thousand visits.

And it's that growth that has officials at United Regional worried.

"Most Emergency Rooms across the county see a 1.5 to 3 percent a year, on average. So this is yes, definitely unusual.," said Dr. John Hilmi, the E.R. Department Chairman at United Regional.

Hilmi says much of the increased demand on the E.R. can be attributed to the local economy and loss of health coverage due to job cuts.

"In this local area you have lost Delphi, and Certainteed, so you have a large number of people that were basically laid off, their cobra insurances lasted about 18 months after those businesses closed, it almost coincides with our burst in growth," he said.

And for those without health insurance, finding care through a primary physician can be difficult.

"It's getting harder and harder, and a lot of the physicians here are saturated in the primary care offices and the network offices are getting saturated and their is no real other venue," Hilmi said.

He says even when the Affordable Health Care Act is fully implemented, it probably won't alleviate this problem.

"You need to have a physician network that is capable of handling this population and right now in this area there are just not enough physicians," he said.

United regional says they are actively recruiting physicians for primary care and also for multiple specialties.

They hope by having more primary care doctors available they can reduce the number of visitors they have in their E.R. waiting room.

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