Getting Answers: long hospital wait times

Western Mass News is getting answers after recent complaints were made to our newsroom and on social media about long wait times at hospital emergency rooms in
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 6:38 PM EDT
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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Western Mass News is getting answers after recent complaints were made to our newsroom and on social media about long wait times at hospital emergency rooms in our area.

We have seen posts about people spending, in some cases, hours in the emergency room waiting for care. I brought the issue to hospital leaders in western Massachusetts to get answers on what is stressing the system right now.

One post read: “I am going on almost 12 hours at the emergency room with my mother who is very ill and there has been no movement?”

A comment on that post read: “That also happened to me, twice.”

Western Mass News reached out to get answers from several local hospitals about what their emergency departments are dealing with right now.

“We certainly have seen challenges not just in Mass., not just in western Mass., in the whole state, as well as the nation, with an increase of patients in the emergency rooms ever since the pandemic started winding down,” said President and CEO of Holyoke Medical Center Spiros Hatiras.

He told Western Mass News that there are numerous factors contributing to longer wait times in their emergency department.

“Some researchers believe that medical care was postponed during the 2 years of the pandemic, kind of catching up to people, so we see a lot more sick people,” Hatiras explained.

He told us that they are seeing more people come into the emergency room who do not require emergency attention for conditions like an earache, and staffing shortages have also been an issue at the hospital.

“Many people have left during the pandemic,” Hatiras said. “It’s hard to recruit. We see a big shortage of nursing, as well. We’ve done a lot of things to try to recruit nursing.”

Over in Springfield, Chair of Emergency Medicine at Baystate Health Niels Rathlev told us that they are experiencing similar issues. We asked what a typical wait time is at their ER.

“It all depends on the acuity of the patient, so patients that come in with two emergencies we see right away,” Rathlev said.

He also urged the community to call primary care physicians first before heading to the emergency room for care.

“Patients sometimes don’t call their primary care physicians first and come to the ER,” he said. “I think primary care physicians have a really important role in terms of determining where care is best delivered.”

We also reached out to Mercy Medical Center in Springfield for a statement regarding wait times at their emergency room and they told us in a statement, in part:

“We are currently expanding Mercy’s emergency department and expect to open additional space in the coming months to meet community needs.”