By Monica Dekany
Western Sun staff writer
The emergency room has always been synonymous with unbelievable wait times and overcrowded lobbies, but over the years the wait times have increased as more and more people are using the emergency room as a primary care office.
According to a new study conducted by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the annual amount of ER visits went from 90.3 million in 1996 to more than 119 million in 2006; a 32 percent increase. Budget cuts across the country and the loss of jobs with benefits have driven people without other options to the ER.
Federal law requires all emergency rooms to provide care to anyone, regardless of insurance or the ability to pay at the time of service. For this reason, wait times have always been long. Today, however, in a crowded ER cases of fainting, stomach aches, and other minor ailments are being treated.
Budget cuts throughout California have resulted in hospitals being shut down, which puts pressure on the ones remaining to provide care to greater areas. People using the ER as a private doctor’s office are depriving those needing to use it for the purpose for which it was intended.
Legislators and local citizens need to stand up against this common practice with suggestions, such as investing in more clinics and primary care offices, in order to work towards reverting the ER back to what it was meant to be: a place to go if you truly have a life or death emergency.