Less time waiting around

Wait time at Maria Parham third best in state
Mar. 04, 2014 @ 07:53 PM

No one wants to wait a long time when they go to the emergency room.

Patients going to the Maria Parham Medical Center emergency room typically have to wait a shorter time before seeing a doctor than do patients in other hospitals around the state and nation.

Data compiled by ProPublica, an independent non-profit organization, showed that in 2013 visitors to the Henderson hospital’s emergency room waited an average of 15 minutes before being seen by a doctor. That’s the third-best time in North Carolina, in which the average wait is 38 minutes. Nationally, the average is 28 minutes.

Dr. Matthew Bitner, medical director for the hospital’s emergency department, and Jane Ryan, nursing director for the ER, head up the team responsible for that performance.

“We adopted a direct bedding procedure,” Bitner said. “The triage nurse collects a minimal amount of information to generate a chart. We no longer wait for a triage assessment.”

Patients need to see doctors as quickly as possible, and the process they’ve implemented helps do that.

“It’s important for them to see a physician,” Ryan said. “We worked to take away barriers.”

In the old procedure, there was a sign-in process, she said. Then a triage nurse would make an assessment based on symptoms the patient was exhibiting and a check of vital signs. Under the current process, the nurse beds them directly in the treatment area.

“A physician may actually see a patient before the triage is completed,” Ryan said.

Bitner pointed out there is a difference between patients that come in on their own and those that come by ambulance.

“For critically ill patients, those coming in by ambulance, there has been some processing on the ambulance, so the hospital has some pre-notification from the paramedic or EMT,” he said.

Technology also has helped reduce wait time.

“We all have walkie-talkies so we can communicate with a physician quickly,” Ryan said.

Bitner pointed out 15 minutes is the average wait time. How long a particular patient waits may vary from five minutes to well above the average, depending on the number of people arriving at the ER at the same time and the severity of their illnesses.

The time of day and day of the week also affect wait time. Morning wait times are usually shorter than afternoon or evening wait times. Sundays and Mondays are the busiest days of the week.

The emergency room schedules physicians and nurses to handle these peak periods, Bitner said.

“We have to give credit to the entire staff,” Ryan said. “It’s really been a team effort. We want to do what’s best for our patients.”


Contact the writer at dirvine@hendersondispatch.com.