Emergency room plays vital role

Published 7:00 am Thursday, December 15, 2016

Highland Community Hospital Photo by Julia Arenstam

Highland Community Hospital
Photo by Julia Arenstam

For decades, emergency rooms and response teams have played increasingly vital roles in preventing deaths nationwide. However, the cost of receiving emergency care is often heavily scrutinized, with some patients stating the cost and the care they receive doesn’t equate.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are as many as 136.6 million emergency room visits in the U.S. annually.
At Highland Community Hospital in Picayune, the staff in the emergency room provide care for an average of 65 patients a day, totaling 22,000 total visits during the 2016 fiscal year, Administrator Mark Stockstill said.
More than half of those patients suffered from severe or life-threatening injuries, he said, with the top diagnoses being respiratory or cardiac disorders.
According to a recent report from the Mississippi Hospital Association, Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home handles about 2,909 emergency room visits per year.
During peak times at Highland, up to five nurses, one ER doctor and one nurse practitioner are on staff, and the average wait time for medical assistance is about 20 minutes, Stockstill said.
According to the CDC, the average national ER wait time increased from 46.5 minutes to 58.1 minutes between 2003 and 2009.
“Our nurses and doctors, and nurse practitioners, are trained to recognize symptoms and rapidly intervene,” Stockstill said. “We rely on people who have all this training. And it’s not just their training but also their experience.”
An average trip to the emergency room can cost $1,233, depending on the treatment required, according to a 2013 National Institute of Heath study.
However, Stockstill said that cost carries more than just the treatment received.
“It brings the peace of mind that any life-threatening problem has been assessed and addressed,” he said.
For non-profit hospitals like Highland and Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home, excess revenue is funneled back into the services provided, Stockstill said.
Stockstill said the hospital sees about $14 million a year in revenue lost due to a patients’ failure to pay. Yet, he said the hospital had $72 million in revenue deductions for fiscal year 2016.
Since Highland and Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home are non-profit hospitals, they are required to establish a program for charity care, something Highland has practiced for several years, Stockstill said.
A person’s hesitancy to seek treatment at an emergency room could be due to a lack of understanding about the healthcare market, Stockstill said.
Patients aren’t paying for the treatment they receive, they are paying for what they have access to, he said.
Individuals seeking medical care should seek treatment at an emergency room for severe injuries and ailments, which should not delayed because the person is wary of the high cost, Stockstill said.
Representatives from Pearl River County Hospital and Nursing Home did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

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About Julia Arenstam

Staff Writer

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