ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The emergency room is supposed to be exactly that.... for emergencies. But more and more people are treating hospitals like the doctors office, and that's leading to some serious overcrowding issues.
A broken foot is a common case in the emergency room, but the common cold? "Some of the patients that show up to the emergency room in their physical condition does not need to be in the emergency room," says Emergency Physician Dr. Abbas Al-saraf.
The American College of Emergency Physicians say visits to the emergency room grew 60% faster than the population rate between 2000 and 2008. Rockford Memorial Hospital proves this to be true with its ER waiting room getting overcrowded. Dr. Maurice Loeffel says, "Alot of times you can't get into a primary doctor, or if your insurance doesn't approve of a primary care doctor. We're open 24/7, it's easy to get in, and you don't have to wait for an appointment."
There are also those that don't have insurance who know the hospital can't turn them away. So to clear out the waiting room, RMH created the Express Care Unit designed to treat cases like the flu. "Congestion, cough, and respitory issues. Their condition is relatively simple and can be dealt within a place like this," says Dr. Al-saraf.
In the express care unit, Dr. Alsaraf says he sees about 25 to 30 patients a day. He says, "The goal is to have them in and out as quick and as prompt as possible and decrease the burden on the emergency room." He says treating minor cases in the Express Care Unit helps increase patient flow allowing more of us in to see the doctor.
Rockford Memorial's Express Care Unit is open for 12 hours a day and always has one doctor and one nurse assigned to treat patients.